Compared with what was to follow, the weeks leading up to the bloodiest battle in British history were a gentle calm before the storm, as these astonishing 100-year-old photographs show.

Heartbreaking photos of troops on the eve of the Somme 100 years ago

Compared with what was to follow, the weeks leading up to the bloodiest battle in British history were a gentle calm before the storm, as these astonishing 100-year-old photographs show.

WWI - Triple Entente Field Guns & Mortars: Livens with his 'Livens Projector'. The Livens Projector was a simple mortar-like weapon that could throw large drums filled with flammable or toxic chemicals. In the First World War, the Livens Projector became the British Army's standard means of delivering gas attacks and it remained in its arsenal until the early years of the Second World War.

WWI - Triple Entente Field Guns & Mortars: Livens with his 'Livens Projector'. The Livens Projector was a simple mortar-like weapon that could throw large drums filled with flammable or toxic chemicals. In the First World War, the Livens Projector became the British Army's standard means of delivering gas attacks and it remained in its arsenal until the early years of the Second World War.

Afbeeldingsresultaat voor 3 augustus 1914

Afbeeldingsresultaat voor 3 augustus 1914

WWI - Triple Entente - Field Guns & Mortars: Livens Projector. Used to deliver large drums filled with flammable or toxic chemicals. The Livens Projector became the British Army's standard means of delivering gas attacks and it remained in its arsenal until the early years of the Second World War.

WWI - Triple Entente - Field Guns & Mortars: Livens Projector. Used to deliver large drums filled with flammable or toxic chemicals. The Livens Projector became the British Army's standard means of delivering gas attacks and it remained in its arsenal until the early years of the Second World War.

By 1914 Europe was divided by two major Alliance systems: The Triple Alliance between Germany Austria Hungary and Italy and the Triple Entente between France Russia and Great Britain.

By 1914 Europe was divided by two major Alliance systems: The Triple Alliance between Germany Austria Hungary and Italy and the Triple Entente between France Russia and Great Britain.

WWI, Jan 1917; Soldiers of the Lancashire Fusiliers in a front line trench opposite Messines, near Ploegsteert Wood. ©IWM

WWI, Jan 1917; Soldiers of the Lancashire Fusiliers in a front line trench opposite Messines, near Ploegsteert Wood. ©IWM

An English publisher released this image as a reply to the WW1 German poster "A Powerful Collision". The giant hand, its wrist and fingernails adorned with official portraits of the Allied leaders, crushes Germany’s Kaiser Wilhelm II in a “tightening grip.”

An English publisher released this image as a reply to the WW1 German poster "A Powerful Collision". The giant hand, its wrist and fingernails adorned with official portraits of the Allied leaders, crushes Germany’s Kaiser Wilhelm II in a “tightening grip.”

peashooter85: “A French soldier shares a canteen of wine with two British soldiers, 1917, World War I. ”

peashooter85: “A French soldier shares a canteen of wine with two British soldiers, 1917, World War I. ”

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