Army could have halted Somme massacre
BRITISH commanders at the Somme misinterpreted intelligence that may have prevented the bloodiest day in Army history, a new book has claimed.
German prisoners taken before the battle said a seven-day British artillery blitz wrecked some defences but warned bunkers elsewhere were intact. They were ignored and generals assumed all German lines had gone.
So when British troops attacked on July 1 1916, they were easy targets for German machine-gunners who emerged from deep shelters: 19,000 Britons died, with 41,000 injured, in one day.
The failings were found, in prisoner reports, by Hugh Sebag-Montefiore, author of Somme: Into the Breach.
Oswald Lakemaker deserted from Mametz during the shelling, saying that most defences had “collapsed” but suggesting his unit’s stronger dugouts at Ovillers had likely survived.
Arnold Fuchs and Ernst Girndt, held at Montauban days earlier, gave similar details to interrogators.
“They [the British] knew that there was a weak point in the German line and that the rest of the line was likely to have held,” said Mr Sebag-Montefiore. “It was like a massacre. It was completely unnecessary.” A briefing for commanders had concluded “everything was wide open”.
The claims were vindicated when British troops later broke through in the south.