Did the Somme offensive achieve anything?

As dawn broke on 1 July 1916, the curtain rose on one of the most furious periods of bloodletting of the entire war

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The Somme was a slaughterhouse. This massive offensive in northern France resulted in well over a million British, French and German casualties. Almost 20,000 British troops were killed on the opening day, the bloodiest 24 hours in British military history.

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But did the battle achieve anything? Well, in terms of land, very little. When the offensive was called off on 18 November, the Allies had advanced a paltry five miles, and had been forced to relinquish many of the gains they’d achieved earlier in the battle.

However, the Somme wasn’t just about gaining land. Among the aims of the offensive was to force the Germans to divert resources from a massive assault of their own on the French fortress of Verdun, and to use up manpower the Germans simply couldn’t replace.

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To what extent the Allies met these aims is open to debate: the Germans failed to take Verdun, but were still very much in the war for the next two years.