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The Great War
Prologue Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3 Chapter 4 Timeline Maps & Battles The Shaping of the 21st Century Historians
OverviewTotal WarSlaughterNagel/StockwellEtem/Wegner
Soldiers advancing, near the Somme, France, 1916'The operating room was ablaze... The place by one o'clock in the morning was a shambles.' -- Mary Borden, American nurse at the Battle of the Somme.

French soldiers
French soldiers
In 1916, some of the most appalling battles in human history took place on the Western Front. The Battle of Verdun became for the French what Gettysburg is for Americans; Verdun symbolized for the French the strength and fortitude of their armed forces and the solidarity of the entire nation.
The goal of the German commander was not territory, but to bleed his enemy to death. The battle lasted nine months and in the end the front lines were nearly the same, while over 300,000 French and Germans were killed and over 750,000 were wounded.

German Soldiers Attack

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The British offered the same unspeakable sacrifice at the river Somme, where another million died, and at Ypres [Passchendaele], in Belgium, a graveyard for half a million more. As the slaughter continued with no significant gains in territory by either side, the men in the trenches kept their sanity by using music, theater and trench newspapers to replicate the world they left behind.

Top Photo: Soldiers advancing, near the Somme, France, 1916

Battle Sites at Verdun, the Somme and Ypres

Historian Commentary British General Douglas Haig and the Somme River Battle
Trevor Wilson, Historian

General Douglas Haig
General Douglas Haig
Haig was not the dunderhead, certainly not the intentional butcher that he's often portrayed as being. Haig in fact remained an imaginative commander who always believed he could bring off great sweeping decisive victories. And this is where he failed. Because in this war, you're never going to bring off great, sweeping, decisive victories. And if you tried you were going to get your men killed.

Explore Further
* The Battle of Verdun
* The Battle of the Somme
* The Battle of Ypres
* WWI Casualties & Deaths
* Verdun (Channel 4, UK)
* The Battle of the Somme, 1916 (
* Battle of Ypres [Passchendaele] 31 July - 6 November 1917 (BBC)
* The Face of Battle by John Keegan (London, Penguin, 1976)
1914-1919 Timeline
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Timeline Maps & Battles Shaping of the 21st Century Historians War Index Resources About the Show
1919 1918 1917 1916 1915 1914 Third Battle of Ypres Battle of the Somme Battle of Verdun