The Battle of the Somme July 1, 2016 marks the 100th anniversary of the start of the notorious World War I Somme offensive. But this battle deserves a second look. Long a byword for futile slaughter, for callous unimaginative generals sending a generation to their pointless deaths, it was in fact a necessary operation to relieve pressure on the desperate French at Verdun. And it succeeded.

It did not merely prevent the Germans from breaking through on the Western Front and winning the war in the fall of 1916. It so battered the Kaiser’s army that the Germans withdrew into the Hindenburg Line and launched the unrestricted submarine warfare that brought the United States into the conflict and assured Allied victory.

The conditions were appalling and the cost horrific. But neither the generals nor the politicians had a choice, other than surrender to an aggressive regime that had begun the war by attacking its neighbours and occupying much of their territory.

So yes, we must recall the cost. But also the victory it bought, tactically in 1916 and strategically in 1918.