During World War I, trenches and barbed wire ran across the entire continent of Europe from the Mediterranean to the North Sea.The Battle of the Somme was one of the largest battles of the First World War, with more than one million casualties. At 7.30am on July 1st, 1916, after a devastating artillery bombardment lasting more than a week, 100,000 British soldiers waited in their trenches ready to advance on the German lines. They’d been told to expect minimal resistance, but as they picked their way slowly across no-man’s-land, guns opened fire. Shells burst overhead, and waves of men were machine-gunned down. The British and French forces attempted to break through the German lines along a 25-mile (40 km) front north and south of the River Somme in northern France.
One purpose of the battle was to draw German forces away from the battle of Verdun; however, by its end the losses on the Somme had exceeded those at Verdun. It was a military catastrophe of unprecedented proportions. In just one day the British suffered 57,470 casualties, including 19,240 dead - the bloodiest day in the history of the British Army.