The word Somme has become synonymous with obscene. This July 1, 2016 marks the hundredth anniversary of the first day of the Battle of the Somme—the worst single-day experience in British military history. The World War I bloodbath saw over 20,000 British and imperial troops killed or never accounted for, and another 35,000 wounded—all in just the first few hours of a head-on assault against entrenched German lines near the Somme River in France. After Zero Hour on July 1, the British fell at the rate of eight men per second. Andrew Roberts notes that “By 8:30 a.m. just under half of the 66,000 British soldiers who had attacked in eighty-four battalions were casualties.”


New to The New Criterion?

Subscribe for one year to receive ten print issues, and gain immediate access to our online archive spanning more than four decades of art and cultural criticism.

Popular Right Now