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Somme timeline


A timeline of the events leading up to, and during, the Battle of the Somme 1916


28 June  Assassination of Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo

28 July — Austria declares war on Serbia

29 July — Russia mobilises

1 August — Germany declares war on Russia

3 August — German invasion of Belgium

4 August — Britain enters the war

4–19 August — British Expeditionary Force (BEF) mobilised

23–24 August — The BEF is involved in the Battle of Mons

26 August — Battle of Le Cateau – successful rear guard action by BEF II Corps

7–10 September — Battle of the Marne – German advance halted

12–15 September — Battle of the Aisne – German army goes on the defensive

4–10 October — Unsuccessful defence of Antwerp by Royal Naval Division

19–22 October — First Battle of Ypres – British, French and Belgian forces prevent capture of Ypres.

Western Front stabilised



10–13 March — Battle of Neuve-Chapelle – BEF’s first offensive

22 April–25 May Second Battle of Ypres – first German use of chlorine gas

7 May — RMS Lusitania sunk by a German submarine off Ireland

25 September–8 October — Battle of Loos – first use of gas by the BEF

19 December General Sir Douglas Haig takes over as Commander-in-Chief of the BEF from Field Marshal Sir John French

29 December  Haig attends conference to discuss Anglo-French offensive on a 60-mile front on the Somme



24 January  First Military Service Act passed by the House of Commons (conscription of unmarried men aged 18–41)

21 February — Battle of Verdun begins

12 March — Allied military conference at Chantilly regarding summer offensive

14 April — Lord Kitchener informs Haig that the British cabinet had agreed that the war could only be ended in battle

1 May — General Pétain receives command of the group of French Armies of the Centre. General Nivelle takes command of French 2nd Army

21 May — German attack on Vimy Ridge

25 May — Conscription extended to include married men aged 18–41

31 May — Battle of Jutland

4 June — Russian Brusilov Offensive against Austro-Hungarian and German forces

5 June — Death of Field Marshal Earl Kitchener in the sinking of HMS Hampshire en route to Russia to discuss joint strategy

24 June — Preliminary bombardment on the Somme begins (British code: ‘U Day’; final day to be ‘Z Day’)

27 June — Haig moves his headquarters to the Château Valvion, 12 miles from Albert; ‘X Day’

28 June — ‘Y Day’; Z Day postponed by two days due to bad weather

29 June — ‘Y+1’

30 June — ‘Y+2’

1 July ‘Z Day’ – attack at 7.30 a.m. Greenwich Mean Time

15–22 September — Battle of Flers-Courcelette; first use of tanks

13–18 November — Battle of the Ancre; Beaumont-Hamel captured

18 November — Official end of the Battle of the Somme


04.00–06.25 — German batteries bombard the British frontline at Gommecourt

06.25 — Hurricane bombardment commences on German positions

07.00 — Mist in area of Carnoy lifts

07.15–07.22 — Entrances to Russian saps in no-man’s-land are blown

07.20 — Mine is blown under Hawthorn Redoubt at Beaumont-Hamel

07.27–07.28 — Remaining large mines are blown

07.30 — The main assault begins on the Somme

08.30 — Elements of 36th Division are 1 mile behind German lines

08.45 — 63rd Brigade of 21st Division reaches its objective at La Boisselle

09.00 — The Newfoundland Regiment is cut down behind British lines while trying to reach its objective

Elements of 8th Division attempt attack on German second-line positions at Ovillers

09.15 — An observer reports men of 31st Division are in the village of Serre

09.30 — French attack south of the Somme

56th Division reaches most of its objectives at Gommecourt

10.30 — Remains of 16th Middlesex and 2nd Royal Fusiliers retreat from the crater at Beaumont-Hamel

11.00 — Village of Montauban is captured

Signal seen from German second line at Gommecourt indicating progress of 46th Division

12.30 — French 39th Division reaches its final objectives

12.34 — British 30th Division capture La Briqueterie command post

14.00 — 7th Division outflank the village of Mametz

16.00 — Mametz cleared of enemy by 7th Division

18th and 30th Divisions consolidating their final positions

19.30 — VIII Corps have been driven out of most of the positions captured earlier in the day

21.30 — Final men from 46th Division return to British lines from no-man’s-land at Gommecourt

21.50  Plan to attack with remains of 31st Division is cancelled

22.30 — Most of 36th Division are driven back to the British frontline by German counter-attacks


1–13 July — Battle of Albert

2 July — Capture of Fricourt

2–6 July — Capture of La Boiselle

9–13 July — Capture of Mametz Wood and Contalmaison

11–12 July — Germans suspend operations at Verdun

14–17 July — Battle of Bazentin Ridge

14 July — Dawn attack on Trône Wood, Longueval and High Wood; cavalry in action

15–17 July  — Capture of Ovillers and battle for Delville Wood begins – ends on 3 September

19 July — Diversionary attack at Fromelles north of the Somme

18–22 July — Attacks at Longueval, Delville and High Woods

23 July — Battle for Poziers begins – ends on 3 September

3–6 September — Battle of Guillemont

9 September — Battle of Ginchy

15–23 September — Battle of Flers-Courcelette – begins with first ever tank attack

25–28 September — Battle of Morval on boundary between British and French forces

26–28 September —  Battle of Thiepval – concludes with the capture of the Thiepval position which had resisted all attacks since 1 July

1–18 October — Battle of Le Transloy Ridge

1 October–11 November — Battle of the Ancre Heights

13–18 November — Battle of the Ancre and capture of Beaumont-Hamel 

Extracted from Battle Story: Somme 1916 by Andrew Robertshaw

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