Learning Curve, The Great War
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Useful notes: Source5
Time spent in the front line at the Battle of the Somme, July – November 1916
(Catalogue ref: WO 153/1258)
  • This source shows the rota of time spent by various divisions of the army during the battle of the Somme.
  • A division was about 15,000 men, so not every member of the divisions would have been in the firing line for the time shown in the table. In fact, relatively few men would have been.
  • The British Army went to enormous lengths to create rotas so that soldiers spent the minimum possible time in the harsh conditions of the front line trenches. When they were in the front line, they spent a maximum of 2-3 days in the direct firing line. A typical soldier would spend a total of about 4-5 days per month in the firing line, although it would have been more during the battle, especially if his unit got caught up in heavy fighting.
  • The rota also helped to reduce casualties because soldiers were relatively fresh. Historians today think that the chances of being wounded were about 50:50. We know that about 1 in 12 soldiers were killed. Even at the Battle of the Somme 75% of British troops escaped completely unhurt.
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