Astonishing WWI film shows a German counter-offensive

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Described as the bloodiest moment of the most brutal conflict, the Battle of the Somme claimed so many lives it became synonymous with the First World War itself.

Some 1.2 million fell in the blood-stained fields as the Allied forces pushed forwards into a hailstorm of German machine gun rounds and explosives.

Grave footage captures the moment German soldiers rushed through trenches and over No Man’s Land during the Battle of the Somme as the Kaiser’s men launched a daring counter-offensive against British and French troops.

Capturing the bloodiest moments of an unsparing war, the video taken in 1916 shows soldiers running across the the barren fields of northern France as shells go off all around them – sending debris hurtling skyward.

Resurfacing this week, more than 100 years since one of histories most sanguinary campaigns, the footage shows young men darting through trenches in fear.

The men can then be seen darting through trenches in an attempt to get out of the shelling area before the next one hits, with some fleeing into shell craters in a desperate attempt to save their own lives.

The Battle of the Somme is widely considered the deadliest battle of the First World War, with some estimates placing the number of British casualties at 400,000.  

The battle revolved around an Allied offensive against the Germans in northern France, where they hoped to break the German line and push them back. 

However Allied tactics were hopelessly outdated, failing to adapt to the machine guns that were being used en-masse by the Germans. 

It is said that lines upon lines of Allied troops, expecting that their five day artillery bombardment had wiped out the German trenches, were simply mown down by German machine guns as they advanced toward the German position, with little or no plan as to what to do next. 

The Somme was the first-time air power and tanks had been used effectively in battle, driving up the number of casualties significantly.

Around half of all those killed are thought to have been from the German empire, with Britain also suffering its worst ever day militarily on the opening day of the battle, where they sustained more than 57,000 casualties.

Accounts from soldiers there during the battle were particularly brutal, such as this one from German officer Aspirant Brachat: ‘When the English approached our dugout, I yelled [at my men]‘Get out! Face the enemy.’ It was standing by the entrance when I was wounded by hand grenades.

‘Our dugout caught fire. I stood between the English and the burning dugout where the stocked-up ammunition had exploded. There was a lot of crying out and screaming, as many of my dear comrades suffocated or were burned to death. My only wish was to escape.’ 

The battle consisted of an offensive by the British and French armies against the German Army, which, since invading France in August 1914, had occupied large areas of that country.

The Allies gained little ground over the four month battle – just five miles in total by the end.

The battle is controversial because of the tactics employed and is significant as tanks were used for the first time.

The Battle of the Somme took place between 1 July and 18 November 1916 in the Somme area of France.

On the first day of fighting the British lost more than 19,000 men and 420,000 in total. Sixty per cent of all officers involved on the first day were killed.

The battle eventually came to an end on November 18 1916 after a British offensive, with both sides choosing to focus on enduring the weather from their current position rather than attempt to push the opposition back further. 

By the time fighting ceased there were more than 1 million casualties, including 650,000 Germans.

 

 

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