The Battle of the Somme , also known as the Somme Offensive, took place during the First World War between 1 July and 18 November 1916 on either side of the river Somme in France. The battle saw the British Army, supported by contingents from British imperial territories including Australia, New Zealand, Newfoundland, Canada, India and South Africa, mount a joint offensive with the French Army against the German Army, which had occupied large areas of France since its invasion of the country in August 1914. The Battle of the Somme was one of the largest battles of the war; by the time fighting paused in late autumn 1916 the forces involved had suffered more than 1 million casualties, making it one of the bloodiest military operations ever recorded.
After the outbreak of the First World War the Liberal MP and successful journalist, Charles Masterman, was appointed head of the government's War Propaganda Bureau. Masterman recruited Buchan who was asked to organise the publication of a history of the war in the form of a monthly magazine. Buchan approached both Arthur Conan Doyle and Hilaire Belloc to help him with the project but both claimed they were too busy.
Buchan eventually decided to write the book on his own. Published by his own company, Thomas Nelson, the first installment of the Nelson's History of the War, appeared in February, 1915. A further twenty-three appeared at regular intervals throughout the war. The profits, including Buchan's own royalties, were donated to war charities.
In the spring of 1915, Buchan agreed to become one of the five journalists attached to the British Army. He was given responsibility for providing articles for The Times and the Daily News. Over the next few months Buchan covered both the second Battle of Ypres and the Battle of Loos.
In June 1916, Buchan was recruited by the British Army to draft communiqués for Sir Douglas Haig and other members of the General Headquarters Staff (GHQ). Given the rank of Second Lieutenant in the Intelligence Corps, Buchan was also provided with the documents needed to write the Nelson's History of the War. GHQ saw this as good for propaganda as Buchan's close relationship with Britain's military leaders made it extremely difficult for him to include any critical comments about the way the war was being fought.
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