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ground, like fish caught in the net. They hung there in grotesque postures. Some looked as though they were praying; they had died on their knees and the wire had prevented their fall. From the way the dead were equally spread out, whether on the wire or lying in front of it, it was clear that there were no gaps in the wire at the time of the attack.Concentrated machine gunfire from sufficient guns to command every inchof the [barbed] wire, had done its terrible work. The Germans must have been reinforcing the wire for months. It was so dense that daylight could barely be seen through it. Through the glasses it looked a black mass. TheGerman faith in massed wire had paid off.How did our planners imagine that Tommies [British soldiers], having survived all other hazards - and there were plenty in crossing No Man's Land - would get through the German [barbed] wire? Had they studied the black density of it through their powerful binoculars? Who told them that artillery fire would pound such [barbed] wire to pieces, making it possible toget through? Any Tommy could have told them that shell fire lifts [barbed] wire up and drops it down, often in a worse tangle than before.
Document B: British SoldierSource: George Coppard, With a Machine Gun to Cambrai, 1969.
Document C: German SoldierOtto Lais was a soldier in German Infantry Regiment 169. He was a machine gunner and fought at the battle of the Somme. Here is an excerptfrom his memoir recounting his experience during the battle’s first day. Thedate of his memoir is unknown. It was originally published in 1935.Wild firing slammed into the masses of the enemy. All around us was therushing, whistling, and roaring of a storm: a hurricane, as the destructive British shell rushed towards our artillery which was firing courageously…The machine gunners were earning their pay today. Belt after belt was fired, 250 rounds – 1,000 – 3,000. . . .The British keep charging forward. Despite the fact that hundreds are already lying dead in the shell holes to our front, fresh waves keep emerging from the assault trenches…18,000 rounds! The other platoon weapon (machine gun) has a stoppage. Gunner Schwarz falls shot throughthe head over the belt he is feeding. The belt twists, feeds rounds into the gun crookedly and they jam! Next man forward. The dead man is removed. The gunner strips the feed mechanism, removes the rounds and reloads.Fire; pause; barrel change; fetch ammunition; lay the dead on the floor ofthe crater. That is the hard unrelenting tempo of the morning of 1st July 1916. The sound of machine gun fire can be heard right across the divisional front. The youth of England bled to death in front of Serre [our position].Source: Otto Lais, “A Machine-gunner in Iron Regiment 169,” dateunknown, originally published 1935.
The Battle of the Somme1.Graphic OrganizerDoc ADoc BDoc CWho wrote it?