The Somme 1916: From Both Sides of the Wire (BBC2, 9pm)

BETTER late than never, historian Peter Barton's three-part documentary delves into German archives to reveal how close the Allies came to losing the Battle of the Somme.

Barton told TV Times: "We've relied on jingoism and not looked at the German side of things, which is crazy and creates a false image. The Germans regarded the Somme as a defensive victory as they withstood an astonishing onslaught for month after month and eventually fought the British to a standstill.

"On the first day (July 1) the British outnumbered the Germans by eight or nine to one. I mean the enemy stopped an unstoppable force."

Among the costly mistakes were that the Germans had 16 interception stations, so they were listening to a lot of the phone calls the British and the French made. For example, they were forewarned about British trench raids and could set up ambushes, Barton points out.

"The records show that a great many of the British and French shells failed to explode. One very important point is that when an artilleryman fires his gun, he expects that shell to explode, but he doesn't know if it has. They're not to blame, it's the fault of the manufacturers. The Germans identified that a lot of these shells were of American manufacture," says Barton.

And that tale of British soldiers being told to walk across No Man's Land on the first day. Barton says German records show that captured British soldiers revealed they had been told that no Germans would be alive in the first and second lines and that it was only when they got to the third line, that they would meet any resistance.

"That prediction has been based on the fact that the British thought their artillery would annihilate the Germans, which it didn't" says Barton.

"Every British officer was given their operation orders not long before each attack and were meant to memorise them – they weren't meant to take them across No Man's Land. Many fell into German hands and this allowed the enemy to analyse British tactics. The Germans had a very enlightened approach (to taking prisoners). You're terrified when you're captured, so when you're treated with kindness you look upon your captors with a certain amount of gratitude. You find that most troops gave the Germans something of value to add to their intelligence."

Wild France with Ray Mears (ITV, 8PM)

MEARS continues his exploration of the geography, flora and fauna of France by heading to the Ardeche, where miles of gorges and limestone cliffs characterise this part of the Auvergne-Rhone-Alpes region. He visits a cave with a long history and is given special permission to abseil in through the original sky-facing entrance, finding an array of stalactites and stalagmites inside. He then canoes down the Ardeche river and meets wildlife ranger Olivier, who teaches Mears some of the traditional uses of local plants.

Is Your Pension Safe? Channel 4 Dispatches (C4, 8pm)

WITH falling long-term interest rates and many company pension schemes already in deficit, some may be wondering if there will be more companies like BHS who struggle to meet their pension commitments. Hoping to shed some light on the issue is Shaunagh Connaire. The former accountant investigates the implications for your retirement.

Eden (C4, 9pm)

WELL, here we go again with a reality programme filmed over the course of a year in which 23 men and women try to build a new life and new society from scratch in a remote location in the Highlands. Participants include a doctor, a vet, a chef, a carpenter and a shepherdess. In the opening edition, they tackle the start of their 365-day experience as they open the gates into the 600 acres of land they'll be calling home for the next 12 months, trekking through dense woodland to find one another and begin to build their new homes.

Viv Hardwick