8th September 1916
6th Battalion of the Royal Irish Regiment fought at the Somme
The Royal Guernsey Light Infantry wasn’t formed until December 1916, so before this date volunteers from Guernsey were assigned, en masse, to existing regiments elsewhere. Many were attached to the 6th Battalion of the Royal Irish Regiment, which fought at the Somme in September 1916.
Nineteen Guernseymen were killed in the battle in early September, or died later of their wounds.
Lasting 141 days, from July to November 1916, the Battle of the Somme was one of the fiercest and most wasteful battles of the whole First World War. Fought by the British Empire and France against the German Empire, it cost more than 650,000 French and British lives, and up to 500,000 German lives – an average of more than 800 per day.
Yet, for so much bloodshed, the outcome was inconclusive.
Aim of the battle
The Battle of the Somme, or Somme Offensive, was part of a coordinated effort by the British Empire, France, Russian and Italian armies to defeat the Central Powers (pricipally Germany, Austria-Hungary, Bulgaria and the Ottoman Empire). It was focused on the area around the Somme River.
The British goal was to relieve some of the pressure that the French forces at Verdun were under, and to inflict losses on the enemy. These losses would be both human and physical. Haig, the commander of the British forces, had plans to capture territory that was, at that time, held by Germany. He had wanted to take 25km within the first five days.
However, the first day of the battle was to prove the most deadly of any that British troops had ever fought. Almost 60,000 men had been wounded before it drew to a close, around a third of whom died.
This should perhaps have hinted at what was to come. As the losses mounted over the next five months, neither side gained a great deal. The German troops weren’t pushed back as far as might have been hoped. The major outcome for both sides would seem to have been the death toll they inflicted on each other.