The World War I Battle of the Somme, which began on July 1, 1916, failed to achieve the English and French Allies' hoped-for primary objective of a decisive breakthrough. The Allied artillery bombardment of the entrenched German lines failed to destroy enemy defenses prior to some of the major advances of British troops across no-man's land, and the troop movements were cut down by German machine gun and artillery fire. After an Allied offensive campaign that lasted more than 4 months, there were more than 1 million combined casualties and the Allies pushed the German lines back only 6 miles along a 16-mile front.
Because of the large loss of life incurred during the Battle of the Somme and the Allies' minimal territorial gains, the decisions and strategies of the British and French military commands were criticized by both politicians and historians. An alternate view places the battle in the context of the engagement serving as part of a larger coalition warfare process that led to the eventual collapse of the German military by weakening the opponent in what had essentially become a war of attrition.