Casualties topped 1 million, including the deaths of more than 300,000.
Memorial and cemetery for victims of the battle near Pozieres, France. (Credit: Scott Barbour/Getty Images)
British troops sustained 420,000 casualties—including 125,000 deaths—during the Battle of the Somme. The casualties also included 200,000 French troops and 500,000 German soldiers.
A silent movie about the battle became one of the first box-office blockbusters.
Still from the film “Battle of the Somme,” showing British troops. (Credit:IWM via Getty Images)
Throughout the autumn of 1916, more than 20 million Britons, nearly half the country’s population, flocked to cinemas to watch “The Battle of the Somme,” the first feature-length war documentary. Expecting a victory, the British War Office embraced the new medium of motion pictures and granted filmmakers Geoffrey Malins and John McDowell permission to record the battle in the hopes it would rally support for the war effort and aid recruiting. Incorporating both staged footage and real battle scenes captured between June 25 and July 9, the movie sparked controversy by depicting the brutality of war, including scenes of corpses being tossed into communal graves. “The Battle of the Somme” remains one of the most-watched films in British cinema history and blazed the trail for the movie industry’s ongoing obsession with war as a subject.