The 100th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme

Tuesday June 28, 2016

Main Image

Friday 1st July 2016 marks the 100th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme, the largest battle of the First World War and one of the bloodiest in history. Over the course of the 141-day battle, over one million men were wounded or lost their lives on the Western Front, with the British Army losing 19,240 soldiers on the first day alone.

Despite the initial heavy losses, the British General, Douglas Haig, decided to continue the offence alongside their French allies against the German troops. The bloodthirsty battle still attracts controversy regarding the commanders’ tactics, with the immense sacrifice by the allied troops only advancing the British seven miles, as well as ultimately failing to break the German defence.

With the battle remembered as the worst disaster in British military history, there are numerous great teaching resources surrounding the subject.

Teaching resources

This timeline, The Battle of the Somme: 141 days of horror, provides a great starting point for students, chronologically outlining the battle’s series of events. It also offers insight into the weapons used in the attack, as well as videos and images of the Somme to help provide context and keep the content engaging.

For a brilliant visual representation of the events, the WWI documentary, The Somme: From Defeat to Victory, also gives a comprehensive overview of the events. Featuring both British and German first-hand accounts, students can hear about what it was like to live through the ordeal, the strategic decisions made by the military commanders and the personal stories of some of the soldiers.

If you prefer to keep your pupils engaged by integrating tasks and discussions into your lesson plans, this great resource on remembering the Battle of the Somme supplies plenty of ideas for lesson structures, wider reading for students and classroom activities. There’s also further historical context for teachers surrounding the Somme, as well as timelines, army recruitment propaganda and learning activities for students if they embark in a school trip to the Somme.

Remembrance ceremonies

If you want to take part in a Remembrance service next weekend, there are plenty of ways to get involved. The Royal British Legion have provided a brilliant Somme 100 Toolkit so students can hold their own Remembrance services in honour of those who paid the ultimate sacrifice on the Western Front.

The official national commemorative event will be held at 11:00 GMT at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission Thiepval Memorial in Northern France. The ceremony will be led jointly by both the French and British governments, in partnership with the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and The Royal British Legion.

If you’d like to arrange a school trip to Ypres and the Somme to enhance your students’ learning about this momentous historical event, get in touch with one of our specialist team members who can design a bespoke trip for you and your students.