The Somme Offensive II — The Battle of Attrition
The limited gains of the first day of the Somme presented the allied command with a dilemma. Should they continue the battle, or halt the offensive? The lengthy logistical preparations required to mount such a battle prevented a rapid redeployment of men and resources to attack on another part of the front. The broader parameters of allied strategy obliged the Anglo-French armies to maintain pressure on the enemy, partly to relieve Verdun and partly to prevent the transfer of German reserves to the eastern front, where Brusilov’s summer 1916 offensive was enjoying considerable success (see Map 8). Above all, there had been enough success on the southern sector of the front on 1 July to suggest that the German defensive position could be broken into. Continued pressure it was judged would wear down the fighting strength of the German army — in time a complete collapse might occur. For these reasons the campaign was to be prolonged for 4½ months. Little ground was won, and no decisive breakthrough ever appeared likely. Yet the muddy crawl over the Picardy hills, which severely stretched Germany’s powers of resistance, imperceptibly turned the course of the war in the allies’ favour.