1) Bloodiest one-day battles ever? (Centennial of the Battle of the Somme) 2) "Kitchener's Army?"

The chronology in human misery is marked today, with the centennial of the opening of The Battle of the Somme. (Wiki overview: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_the_Somme; profoundly worth reading: the opening day as reported in the International Herald Tribune, July 2, 1916: http://iht-retrospective.blogs.nytimes.com/2016/07/01/1916-the-battle-of-the-somme/

  1. What is the context of “Kitchener’s Army?” Like “Patton’s Third Army” (which never existed)? Was a radical, “movement” slogan because it is a challenge to “HRM’s Army?”

  2. Twice, with a reference to Prior, R.; Wilson, T. (2005). The Somme. Yale University Press, the Wiki ed(s) mention the unique bloodiness of even the opening day of that uniquely bloody affair.

Per national population, I’ve read that the US Civil War and the Israel War of Independence were the bloodiest per-capita (which may be wrong, certainly over the long course of history).

What single battles/engagements are commensurate with either UK in the Somme–largest absolute number of casualties–or in the relation to national population, as I bring up here? (Of course, “in relation to number of war-fighting-capable members of that population” is more accurate, but then the desperation of the nation may change that number radically).

From the Wiki:

At the start of 1916, most of the British Army had been an inexperienced and patchily trained mass of volunteers.[39][40] The Somme was the debut of the Kitchener Army created by Lord Kitchener’s call for recruits at the start of the war. The British volunteers were often the fittest, most enthusiastic and best educated citizens but British casualties were also inexperienced soldiers and it has been claimed that their loss was of lesser military significance than the losses of the remaining peace-trained officers and men of the German army.[41] British casualties on the first day were the worst in the history of the British army, with 57,470 British casualties, 19,240 of whom were killed.[42][43]

Cannae was said to be worse.

Would it kill you to use a search engine once in a while, genius?



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No warning issued, but if you know the answer, just post it without getting snarky. Discussion in GQ frequently is more informative than just a simple Google search.

General Questions Moderator

I am sure that you looked at this link

The problem is that many of these battles go over multiple days so getting it down to a single day is a little more difficult.

The battle of the Somme is covered in that link. One thing about this battle, is that it was the first major battle in WW1 where the British had mobilized enough manpower for their first major offensive instead of tagging on to the French.

The British expectation was that this would be the battle where they would overwhelm the Germans. Unfortunately, they were mistaken on that point

FWIW, I used to visit Highgate cemetery in London now and then and you see lots of gravestones marked “died at the Somme.”

The Somme, for example, was four months long. Some days were relatively peaceful - others were bloodbaths. The first day was a bloodbath.


Even if untrue, a gracious reply.

Ditto the Wiki Kitchener. My interest in the cultural reverberations of encouraging esprit de corps to any single Britisher except HRH at this, the highest level, is not addressed, nor would it be.
ETA: My Mom when she was alive always said “Leo? He is a genius.”

The bloodiest day question has pretty much been answered, but here’s a little context on “Kitchener’s Army”:
Unlike the other major European powers, Britain did not have much of a militaristic bent to its society. It didn’t have peacetime conscription, or for that matter bother to conscript during wartime until 1916. The wars with the Bourbons or French revolutionaries were fought by relatively small armies; the bulk of Britain’s war effort was done by its powerful navy and its financial contributions to its allies. Compare this to France/Germany/Russia with their huge standing peacetime armies. That’s what made the massive enlistments of the early war years so revolutionary to Britain; for the first time in its history the average man was in the military and its unique culture.

Leo, my fuzzy recollection is that the Boer War showed that the British Army was badly out-dated in its doctrine, training and officer corps. Lord Kitchener took steps to modernise the Army, and the Great War gave him the political authority to do so. (Similarly, the cock-ups in the Boer War had given the politicians the necessary political will to dismiss the Queen’s own cousin, the Duke of Cambridge, from his long-held position at the War Office, in charge of the Army.)

Exactly what types of changes Kitchener brought in I could not tell you, because I have no military experience. However, his changes were significant enough that people referred to Lord Kitchener’s Army, just as two centuries before they referred to Cromwell’s New Model army, with similar major changes.

Paging RickJay: this sort of British Army history is up his alley.

And while we’re on the topic of the bloody first day of the Somme, one group of victims were the men of the Newfoundland Regiment.

Newfoundland, Britain’s oldest colony and poorest self-governing Dominion, put together the Newfoundland Regiment of 800 soldiers at the beginning of the war to answer the Empire’s call. They were nicknamed the “Blue Puttees” for their leg-wear.

The Newfoundlanders were in the line with orders to capture Beaumont-Hamel.

They went “over the top” with the first wave of the British attack on July 1, 1916.

Within one hour, they were dead.

On July 2, only 68 members of the Regiment answered the roll call.

July 1 is Canada Day in the rest of Canada, but it’s Memorial Day in Newfoundland.

God rest the souls of the brave Newfoundlanders.