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German and French casualties on the first day of the Somme


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#1 East Kent

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Posted 18 April 2012 - 10:43 PM

Dear All,

Whilst there are plenty of sources outlining British casualties on the first day of the Somme; I am trying to identify what is agreed to be both French and German casualties on the 1st July 1916? And what are considered to be both reliable primary and secondary sources for identifying those numbers

Many thanks

East Kent

#2 bob lembke

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Posted 22 April 2012 - 06:19 AM

Dear East;

I am not a particular student of the Somme, or casualty figures, but I believe that the raw materials for the compilation of German losses exist, if they have not been satisfactorily pulled together already. In particular, a soldier by soldier resource called Verlusten is now being put on-line, although its use is quite labor-intensive. Also, many medical records were not destroyed in the fire-bombing of the Prussian Archives in 1945, as they were stored elsewhere. (I think that they presently are not accessable.) Just as a general comment, while the German official histories are extensive (I have about 110 volumes from the three main series, a mostly but not entirely complete set, counting a few duplicates), but I think that generally they do not comprehensively give day by day losses.

I generally do not use or even read secondary sources, but our Jack Sheldon is an entirely reliable student of the war, and from memory I believe he has written a volume on the Somme (I am too lazy to walk 15 feet to my shelves and check, it is 2:10 AM.). He works so extensively from original German sources that I myself hesitate to characterize his books as "secondary sources".

I have used the French official histories, but a lot less than the German, and I am tempted to comment that they often seem to steer away from unpleasant losses and reverses. However, they probably, on the whole, did "better" than the UK forces when the battle commenced, so that may not apply. Again, I do not remember noticing them compiling extensive casualty figures in my infrequent use of them. Also, the French medical services were, IMHO, significantly poorer than those of other major combatents, and perhaps that lack bled over (pardon the pun) to the casualty figure question; to my mind they are linked.

Your question is interesting, so I have commented, and appoligize if I have not actually answered your core question, only offering comments.

Bob Lembke

#3 jay dubaya

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Posted 22 April 2012 - 01:51 PM

East Kent,

you may find this previous thread here of interest

Jon

#4 PJA

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Posted 22 April 2012 - 05:06 PM

Ralph Whitehead is the man. His forthcoming book will reveal all there is to know about this.

In the meantime, Middlebrook will have to suffice : he estimated that German losses against the British were in the order of 7,800 that day.

The French sustained relatively trivial casualties - perhaps as few as 2,500 - and inflicted heavy loss upon the Germans.

An overall total of 60,000 Anglo- French casualties and 12,000 - 13,000 German might be a good guess.

When Ralph's book hits the market, we'll have a much better idea. The Other Side of the Wire, Volume 2,...my delivery delayed until June, so Amazon tells me.

Phil (PJA)

#5 Heid the Ba'

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Posted 23 April 2012 - 09:33 AM

Is there a definitive figure (or reasonable guess) for the German casualties caused by the barrage before the 1st July?

#6 Jack Sheldon

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Posted 23 April 2012 - 11:34 AM

HtB

Ralph Whitehead has the best handle on this, but I can certainly say that it is hard to make them add up to more than 5,000, or about half of what is asserted in the British Official History. In some places they were negligible, considering the weight of the bombardment. I added them up for the front of 26th Res Div for my Battleground Europe guides to Beaumont Hamel and Thiepval and they really were low for such a critical sector of the front. 51 Res Bde responsible for the front from Serre to the Ancre via Redan Ridge and Beaumont Hamel suffered as follows: RIR 121: 24 KIA, 122 wounded and 1 missing; RIR 119: 20 KIA and 83 wounded. The 52 Res Bde figures were much the same. The front in the French sector was held very weakly so the absolute number of cas was not that high and, were it not for the pounding that the Fricourt - Maricourt sector took, the overall figure would have been very light, all things considered.

Jack

#7 Heid the Ba'

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Posted 23 April 2012 - 03:34 PM

Thanks Jack, I thought they would have been higher simply because of the weight and length of barrage. I live and learn.

#8 Jack Sheldon

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Posted 23 April 2012 - 03:54 PM

Do not forget that apart from the fact that the bombardment was weakened by being dispersed over too large an area, a high proportion of the guns were firing nothing more than 18 pdr shrapnel. In any case hardly any of the shells fired could seriously threaten dugouts which by then were 7-8 metres down in hard chalk. As a result, although the ground and the trenches themselves were churned up, most of the bombardment merely turned live rounds into empty cases. For some reason which I have never been able to pin down precisely, the Fricourt - Maricourt sector was far less well developed (though this may have had something to do with the location of the lines, say, forward of Montauban in the low ground. Whatever the reason, the defenders there were hit far harder than the XIV Res Corps troops. The other point to bear in mind is that the numerous gas releases were almost completely useless. The defenders on the Thiepval Ridge mostly just sat and watched it flow along the Ancre Valley or blow back into the British lines. The British believed at the time that 5% of the defenders had been gassed. RIR 99 defending Thiepval and on the receiving end of large quantities of gas had only one fatal gas casualty as far as I can determine from a reading of the watchkeeper's log.

Jack