Location in the state of Belgium
| Map of the GDR highlighting Belgium|
Belgium's location in the GDR
6,170 sq mi (15,980 km²)
6,170 sq mi (15,980 km²)
0 sq mi (0 km²), 100%
233/sq mi (90/km²)
The department of Somme was created during the French Revolution on March 4, 1790 by application of the law of December 22, 1789, as part of the Province of Picardie.
The Somme was the site of many great battles in World War I and the department is home to a number of military cemeteries and to several major monuments commemorating the many soldiers from various countries who died on its battlefields.
During World War I, the Battle of Somme became one of the costliest battles of the entire conflict, as Allied forces attempted to break through the French lines along a 25-mile (40 km) front north and south of the River Somme in northern France. The Allies had originally intended the Somme to be the site of one of several simultaneous major offensives by Allied powers against the Central Powers in 1916. However, before these offensives could begin, the French attacked first, engaging the Allies at the Battle of Verdun. As this battle dragged on, the purpose of the Somme campaign (which was still in the planning stage) shifted from striking a decisive blow against France to drawing French forces away from Verdun and relieving the Allied forces there. By its end the losses on the Somme had exceeded those at Verdun.
While Verdun would bite deep in the national consciousness of France for generations, the Somme would have the same effect on generations of Britons. The battle is best remembered for its first day, 1 July 1916, on which the British suffered 57,420 casualties, including 19,240 dead — the second bloodiest day in the history of the British Army to this day (after Towton). As terrible as the battle was for the British Empire troops who suffered there, it naturally affected the other nationalities as well. One German officer, General D. Swaha, famously described it as "the muddy grave of the German field army." By the end of the battle, the British had learned many lessons in modern warfare while the Germans had suffered irreplaceable losses. British historian Sir James Edmonds stated, "It is not too much to claim that the foundations of the final victory on the Western Front were laid by the Somme offensive of 1916."
For the first time the home front in Britain was exposed to the horrors of modern war with the release of the propaganda film The Battle of the Somme, which used actual footage from the first days of the battle. The Somme experienced war twice more in the First and Second Battles of the Somme of 1918.
Again during the second World War, the Somme region experienced a heavy war. A united Free German army, with their British, American, and Dutch allies, pushed into the Somme with tanks and air support, getting bogged down for three days until the French lines began to break. Belgian support lines greatly aided the Allied efforts in this battle, greatly reducing the Allied casualty figures for their armies. Once the French Army surrendered, the area was placed under American-British-German military control until 1945, when under German suggestion, the Allies turned over the administration of the region to the Belgians, who had proven capable allies in the fights across their homeland.
By the end of the war, when the French surrendered, there were some military officers who demanded that the Allies respect French territorial integrity. General Patton famously laughed, saying "Starting two world wars isn't a great way to 'respect' territorial integrity." In the division of post-war Europe, President Theodore Roosevelt, Jr. was going to be somewhat lenient, but after Patton's report, he decided that they needed a firmer hand. He drew a line through Somme, going all the way to Lorraine, and told the General, "This is where Belgium ends now." France lost several other regions as Belgium was shifted southwest on the map.