The Somme Campaign: The Regina Trench Story

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The battle for the Regina Trench was also a microcosm of the greater tragedy that was soon to unfold. The German trench system ran some 3000 metres in front of the Canadian lines. British General Julian Byng, of whom much more will be said later, had taken over command. Byng was far ahead of his superiors in creative tactics, but he had little room to manoeuvre here. Byng had high regard for his Canadian units and agreed with Canadian commanders who saw a frontal assault as folly. Unfortunately, his superior, General Hubert Gough, overrode his objections. Byng was ordered to take the trench “at all costs”. The attack failed. Depleted and undersized units suffered massive casualties. As they had done in the aftermath of earlier failures,…show more content…
At the Somme, the factors we are examining played out on such a huge scale that their impact was felt in both Britain and Canada. The campaign was a British disaster of such magnitude that its aftermath presented the propaganda campaign with its greatest challenge. Public enthusiasm waned as the truth about the Somme slipped through the censors. Soldiers began to have even less concern for killing and more for surviving. 1916 should have begun the process of ending the war in some semblance of the way European conflicts had historically been…show more content…
Modern tactics for infantry attacks include one part of a unit laying down a base of fire while the other advances, sometimes in a flanking move. All keep heads down and the manouevre element moves quickly. Before the Somme, Canadian units had been experimenting with similar tactics. In contrast, the Somme attackers were trained and ordered to proceed directly forward, fully upright, weapons at the port position, at a slow steady pace, each man carrying 66 pounds of equipment. One historian described the effect of German machine guns on the first day: the lines…began to melt away. Men simply rolled forward slowly to lie on their faces, their knees bent under them in a posture of prayer…The bobbing line of helmets thinned away to nothing. British artillery observers in a position to see the advance at first thought the troops were simply lying down to avoid the fire and would get up. To their horror, it began to dawn on them that all the khaki figures sprawled in rows before the German lines were dead. Haig continued to order attacks in this manner. Eventually, the 25,000 Canadian casualties would be only part of an allied total of nearly a million, including 200,000 French. It is impossible to communicate such numbers in human terms. The entire campaign netted the Allies seven miles of
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