The Somme through German eyes
While the British Army was bleeding on the fields of France, its outgunned opponents were also suffering a terrible fate. Alexander Watson tells the German story of the battle
In the early hours of 24 June 1916, British and French guns lit up the German defences on the Somme front. To Sergeant Karl Eisler, stationed at an observation post belonging to Reserve Field Artillery Regiment 29, the cacophony that filled the air – “a howling and hissing, a growling, a splintering and crashing” – was “uncannily terror-inducing”. As shells slammed into the ground nearby, the post shook and thick fountains of brick dust obscured his view. This was the frightening opening of an unprecedented seven-day bombardment and a four-and-a-half-month gruelling battle that would, as Eisler put it, demand from German troops “almost superhuman effort and the mobilisation of all psychological strength”.