Sept. 13, 7 pm: Michael McNaught: “Britain’s Calvary: The Battle of the Somme, 1916”

The Battle of the Somme, also known as the Somme Offensive, was one of the largest battles of the First World War. Fought between July 1 and November 1, 1916 near the Somme River in France, it was also one of the bloodiest military battles in history. On the first day alone, the British suffered more than 57,000 casualties, and by the end of the campaign the Allies and Central Powers would lose more than 1.5 million men.

Battle-of-the-SommeThe Somme campaign in 1916 was the first great offensive of World War I for the British, and it produced a more critical British attitude toward the war. During and after the Somme, the British army started a real improvement in tactics. Also, the French attacked at the Somme and achieved greater advances on July 1 than the British did, with far fewer casualties. But it is the losses that are most remembered. The first day of the Somme offensive, July 1, 1916, resulted in 57,470 British casualties, greater than the total combined British casualties in the Crimean, Boer, and Korean wars. In contrast, the French, with fewer divisions, suffered only around 2,000 casualties. By the time the offensive ended in November, the British had suffered around 420,000 casualties, and the French about 200,000. German casualty numbers are controversial, but may be about 465,000.

Our September lectures are sponsored by Cape Cod Five Savings

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May 19: Michael McNaught lecture: “Gallipoli”

  • Tuesday, May 19, 7 pm: Michael McNaught, “The Battle of Gallipoli, 1915”

During World War I, Allies England and France teamed up to create a naval passage to their allies in Russia through the Straits of the Dardanelles. The attack was repelled by the Ottoman Empire and led to the resignation and near ruin of Secretary of the Navy Winston Churchill. The campaign was one of the greatest Ottoman victories during the war and a major Allied failure. In Turkey, it is regarded as a defining moment in the nation’s history: a final surge in the defense of the motherland as the Ottoman Empire crumbled. The struggle formed the basis for the Turkish War of Independence and the founding of the Republic of Turkey eight years later under Mustafa Kemal Atatürk who first rose to prominence as a commander at Gallipoli.

May 28: Michael McNaught: “Clash of Titans: Grant vs. Lee, Virginia 1864

  • Wednesday, May 28: Lecture, 7 pm: Michael McNaught: “Clash of Titans: Grant vs. Lee, Virginia 1864”
 
 
In May 1864 newly-minted Lieutenant-General Ulysses S. Grant launched what he hoped would be the final campaign of the Army of the Potomac. Designed to destroy Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia and end the war by capturing Richmond, what became known as the “Overland Campaign” saw over 40,000 Union casualties over a forty-day period (earning Grant the unwanted sobriquet “Butcher Grant”), with major battles fought in the Wilderness, at Spotsylvania Court House, the North Anna River and Cold Harbor. At the end of the campaign Richmond was still in Confederate hands, and Grant was forced to put Petersburg under siege for the next ten months.