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The whole British plan had been framed around the success of the bombardment - which was intended to destroy German defences and the morale of the defenders. However the expenditure of 1,627,824 shells (a large proportion of which were defective and did not explode) in the seven days preceding the assault, did not succeed in destroying the German barbed wire entanglements nor the many well-fortified enemy machine guns.

Unknown to the British, the German trench garrisons withstood the barrage in bomb-proof shelters cut deep into the chalk; when the British barrage lifted the defenders rushed to their positions and directed fire against the clear targets of the advancing British lines.

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