I’ve spent the last few days wracking my brain, trying desperately to write something poignant to commemorate the significance of today.
On this day in 1916, 19,240 British soldiers lost their lives in what was the first day of The Battle on The Somme.
19,240! At 19,960 that is almost the entire population of Worle who sacrificed their lives on only one day of this four-month battle!
Today’s comparison is that 454 British Forces Personnel and MOD Civilians have died in the last 14 years whilst serving in Afghanistan.
In my professional capacity I have been witness to some of the devastation caused by our fallen over the last 14 years, but my attempts at trying to imagine such devastation caused on only the first day of The Somme causes me to crumble completely!
There are no words to quantify the significance of the loss of today. So I resign myself to a simple ‘Thank you’.
Thank you to the men who gave their lives not only on this day but on any day that was fought for Britain and for us.
Thank you to the Mothers, Fathers, Brothers, Sisters, Wives, Sons and Daughters of these men. Your loss has bought our freedom.
Thank you to the children who never knew their fathers. Your fathers will forever be known as Hero’s.
On this day, we commemorate the lost lives of the British.
I’d like to also pay tribute to all life lost in war. Ally, enemy and all civilian. No one life has greater value than another. With each death there is pain and devastation.
Battle of the Somme
The Battle of the Somme began on 1 July 1916. At 7.30a.m., on a 14-mile front running north of the River Somme in France, 60,000 British soldiers climbed out of their trenches and began to move across No Man’s Land. Within 1 hour, over half of these men were dead or wounded.
These soldiers thought that the German defences had been destroyed by the previous 8 days of British artillery bombardment. In fact, many of the shells had failed to explode and the German barbed wire, trenches, machine-guns and artillery were still waiting for them.
On the first day, 100,000 British soldiers joined the battle. By the end of the day, there were 58,000 casualties, including over 19,000 dead. It was the worst day in the history of the British Army and still remains the greatest loss in a single day for Britain.
The battle did, however, achieve its purpose. The French Army was being destroyed at Verdun, so the British attacked the Somme, forcing the Germans to divert resources and men from Verdun in its defence. The Somme tore the heart out of the German Army and, without this diversion, the French would have been defeated and the war lost.
The battle ended on 18 November 1916, because the rain turned the battlefield into an impassable sea of mud. The British and French had gained 12 kilometres of ground and suffered over 400,000 and 200,000 casualties respectively. The Germans sustained 500,000 casualties. Of the 15,000 soldiers of the DLI who had fought on the Somme, over half had been wounded, killed, or reported missing.