PHOTO: NATIONAL ARCHIVES OF CANADA--PA000909
Wounded soldiers receive treatment during the Battle of Courcelette, Sept. 15, 1916.
By February 1916 the situation confronting the British Empire and France was incredibly bleak. The failure of the 1915 offensives on the Western Front and the crushing defeat of the Russian armies in the east were paralleled by German victories in the Balkans, the failure of the Gallipoli expedition, the defeat of British forces in Iraq and the bloody stalemate in the war between Italy and Austria-Hungary.
Then on Feb. 21, the German 5th Army, with 40 full-strength infantry divisions, each of 16,000 men, began the assault on Verdun, France.
The German commander, General Erich von Falkenhayn, had deci...