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Duration 1:13

The Battle of the Somme: destroying enemy defences

This clip starts with a title card explaining how heavy guns are destroying enemy defences. We then see artillery crews under camouflage preparing a large howitzer to be fired.


Artillery was already the key weapon in modern warfare before the Great War. It had shown its power in the American Civil War of the 1860s and the wars in the Balkans, which took place in 1912-13. The artillery guns and shells used on the first day of the Somme were not powerful or reliable enough to destroy enemy defences. However, as the war went on artillery became increasingly powerful and reliable. By 1917, many of the early problems had been solved and British artillery was accurate and effective.

Interesting or important points about the film

There is a wealth of detail in this clip for the sharp-eyed observer. Note the propaganda element of the title. The film is also revealing about the techniques of trench warfare. Howitzers were designed to fire shells in a high arc to deal with trenches. We can appreciate the power of the shells when we see how many men are needed to load the guns.

Please note that this video is silent.

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