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July 1, 1916: The First Day of the Battle of the Somme

The Battle of the Somme, also known as the Somme Offensive, was the first great offensive of WWI and one of the bloodiest battles in history. It was fought July 1 – November 18, 1916, along a 25-mile front near the Somme River in France. The first two weeks of the Battle of the Somme are known as the Battle of Albert. On the first day of the Battle of Albert, British forces sustained 57,000 casualties with more than 19,000 deaths. It was the deadliest one-day loss in British military history. The losses of the first day were a precursor of what was to come in the following months.

Trench Warfare During the Battle of Somme

During 1914-1915, with Allied forces bogged down in a stalemate of trench warfare, plans were made for a big push on the Western Front. The British and French agreed to launch a joint offensive, but the Germans struck first with an attack on Verdun requiring all available French reserves for defenses. The British would need to lead the joint offensive and relieve pressure on French troops. The area along the Somme River was chosen because it was the meeting place of British and French troops.

The Battle of Albert was the first major battle of Britain’s new and inexperienced volunteer army. A wave of patriotism had spurred thousands to enlist in Pals battalions in 1914-1915. Pals battalions were made up of family, friends, and co-workers from the same community. After training, many of those battalions would see their first combat experience at Somme.

For a week leading up to the offensive, British forces carpeted Germany’s strong defensive lines with 1.6 million shells. They also planted explosive mines under enemy strongpoints. The bombardment was less than effective, and the depth of German trenches meant that German soldiers were more or less protected from the onslaught. That combined with inexperienced troops, faulty shells, and a shortage of guns left British troops vulnerable. German forces had constructed formidable trenches protected by machine gun positions and bands of barbed wire to protect the line from attack.

British 8-inch Howitzer Mk V used during the Battle of Albert

On the morning of July 1st, British forces began the attack north of the river. At the same time, the French attacked from the south. German defenses had not been sufficiently neutralized and as densely packed British troops entered no-man’s land many were mowed down by machine gun fire. French troops faced lighter opposition and made deeper advances, but overall the day was a failure. Allies gained just three square miles of territory and the intense offensive would go on another four months.

Mechanics dismantle an Albatros C.III 2-seat biplane brought down during the Battle of Somme

The Battle of the Somme relied on methods of modern warfare including aircraft, heavy artillery, machine guns, mortars, spray chemical weapons, and flamethrowers. The very first tanks were used in the Battle of the Somme on September 15, 1916.

When the Battle of the Somme finally ended on November 18, 1916, more than a million soldiers from the British, German, and French armies were wounded or killed. The casualty rate for Pals battalions meant that individual communities experienced significant losses. Would you like to learn more about the Battle of the Somme and other World War I battles? Search Fold3 today!

82 Comments

  1. More than one in nine of the New Zealanders who fought on the Somme were killed, and about one in three were wounded. Whereas New Zealand’s eight-month campaign at Gallipoli had cost nearly 2800 lives, more than 2100 men were lost in just 45 days on the Somme.

    Sad that the article doesn’t mention a little country like New Zealand with a small population – and Australia which didn’t have a very great population either.

    • Bless them and their sacrifices.

    • War is just sad for everyone. Bless ALL of the men who lost their lives from every country, small and large, may they all rest in peace.

    • You are right, Patsie! New Zealand and Australia suffered great casualties, especially considering the population of each nation.

    • Thank you for the bit of history. I haven’t read near as much on WW1 as I have 2 and was unaware of the involvement. As an American and Army veteran it’s important to remember all those who fought so gallantly, no matter how small the nation.

    • My mother’s uncle Herbert Thomas Harris died there September 15,1916. Alas, we lost many Canadian soldiers.

    • It was also an Australian that planned the action pushed back the Germans Monash plan brought a new idea. What a dreadful waste of young lives.

    • So true. And the smallest ‘country’ of all, Newfoundland suffered horrific losses too. It happens that July 1 is my birthday. Canada Day is a wonderful celebration of a wonderful country, but in Newfoundland, it is still a dark day, as the best of an entire generation of young men was senselessly slaughtered, along with their friends from Australia and New Zealand, and the rest of the Empire. Very brave boys. May they rest in peace.

    • I visited this memorial April 8, 2019. I am not sure if I can post the two pics I have of it. I spent 10 days traveling northern France visiting all types of WWI memorials, monuments, cemeteries, sites. 10 days was not nearly enough time. I then spent 10 days visiting WWII areas. Very humbling.

    • Yes, Patsie, it’s a disgrace how often we are overlooked and yet the ANZACS offered so much to Brittain during both wars.

      “In less than seven weeks in the fighting at Pozières and Mouquet Farm three Australian divisions suffered 23,000 casualties. Of these, 6,800 men were killed or died of wounds. It was a loss comparable with the casualties sustained by the Australians over eight months at Gallipoli in 1915.”

    • Yes it is a great pity that our friends in New Zealand, Australia & Canada along with many other countries in the Commonwealth have been missed out in this article. The Residents of The Borough of Elmbridge in the U.K. will never forget our friends. In New Zealand Avenue (named in the memory of those who died) Walton-on-Thames in Surrey we had a Hospital for the wounded New Zealand & Australian soldiers and each and every year a service of remembrance is held especially for those from New Zealand & Australia. This is in addition to the annual service of Remembrance on 11 November. They may never grow old BUT WE WILL REMEMBER THEM

  2. What was the forces that were one of the lost battilion. My grandfather was one of the last battalion.

    • The “Lost Battalion” was part of an American offensive in 1918, not part of the Somme in 1916. It was the 1st Battalion of the 308th Infantry Rgt in the 77th Division. They were trapped in a ravine by the German forces, and survived a horrible ordeal for 4 days till relieved. Google Lost Battalion for more info.

    • I have a good task for you that will shed some light on this. There is an excellent DVD entitled “The Lost Battalion,” so rent it or purchase it. The film is graphic but one of the most historically accurate war films of all time, and ranks exceptionally well with “Saving Private Ryan.” Itvshould be mentioned that the officer in charge of the American battalion took his own life not long after the war.

  3. …..Sad that so much of U.S. History remains unknown to so many of our own citizens!

    • I have often felt that the only reason anyone knows there was a WW I was because there had to be a reason why the 1939-45 war was numbered 2.
      Even Ronald Reagan, who was 11 at the end of the war seems not to have been all that well up on it. He said we had never fought the Russian communists, but at the end of the war, we sent troops to Murmansk, including members of Michigan’s Natonal Guard and they fought the Reds there for about a year. We also had troops in Vladivostok on the Pacific coast who evacuated the Czech Legion after their two year retreat along the Siberian railway.
      In fact, the end of WW I overlapped with the start of the Russian Revolution. Anyway, even most of us who do know something of the history of the western front and Lawrence of Arabia in the east do not know much about a British disaster in Iraq and what happened on the eastern front is basically limited to Tannenburg. There were Russian victories, generally, but not always against the Austrians, but they could not hold. The fight in the East was far more mobile, but the vast distances made trenches less effective.

    • It remains unknown because it is not taught! My granddaughter had a project to do for school involving WWII. Daddy, my son, suggested she ask Grandpa, me, for help. I mentioned Rommel, Libya, Morroco, North Africa, and a few other places and names. Well when she was done with that paper, she knew about the Desert Fox, and El Alamien, the British troops in the desert.
      They aren’t being taught! In years to come, nobody will believe it did happen. Just like there are some that now claim the holocaust is a fictional story!
      I have asked people about the U.S. Marines going into Tripoli in 1958! I usually get a blank stare followed by the comment “that never happened”. I remember it well because my June wedding was put of until September of that year. Why? Because we were on alert!
      Our history MUST be taught and taught correctly so hopefully we don’t make the same mistakes again (unfortunately that has already been done).

    • Amen! And thank you for teaching your granddaughter. She will remember who taught her to learn. I was fascinated br Rommel as a high school junior in 1962 and did a research paper about him. Then the war was less than 20 years over, VietNam was still on the horizon and history was important. And I agree with you, our students must be taught. If not by their elders, then who? What a crazy nation we have become where history is literally but asunder.

    • In 2003 I was at Al Udeid when Iraqi Freedom kicked off I was muttering to myself this is a FUCKING DISASTER when quiried about this statement I said first they have no AF a 1950s army BUT more importantly doesn’t anyone besides me remember VIETNAM and how that that worked out.The irony was my 2 tech Sgt’s were Air Guard and both Vietnam veterans one of whom was awarded the bronze star w/v device during Tet in 68. I was the lead HVAC tech for CAOC and ISRD Mason Manner msgt USAF ret

  4. My grandfather, 2nd Lieut. William Francis Eve, the battalion signals officer with the 3/6 Battalion, City of London Regiment, was invalided out of the British Army on 27th July, 1916, during the Battle of the Somme. The shelling brought on epileptic seizures, from which he eventually recovered. He hardly ever spoke of his experiences and never to me about them. He died in 1981.

    • Yes, my grandfather also was in the British Army during WW1. He was gassed earlier during the war and sent home to recover. Upon his return he was gassed a second time and again recovered. He return return to the “front” where he was a stretcher bearer on the Somme, which he said was ” not a position you would choose freely”. He survived the war and lived to his early 90’s, he died in 1975. He told me a lot of stories about the war, with the intention that “it should never happen again”. RIP George Warburton, my grandfather.

  5. My 1st cousin 1x removed was Sgt. C. Lewis Robertson. He lived in California and, In August 1915 at age 22 while an engineering student in college, he made the decision to go to Vancouver BC with several college friends to enlist to fight in WW1. There he joined the 72nd Overseas Forces, Seaforth Highlanders of Canada. He later became a machine gunner in the 12th Canadian Machine Gun Company and, in August 1916, was deployed to France and was soon at the front in the Battle of the Somme. His unit was engaged around Albert until the final days of that long, horrific battle. He was seriously wounded by enemy fire on Nov 22 and died three days later. His body is interred at Albert Communal Cemetery. I hope someday to visit his gravesite to pay my respects for his service.

    • Thanks Bob. If is fortunate indeed that your family has preserved this important record.

    • Hi Bob, Michael here from the Seaforth Highlanders of Canada Regimental Association. Thank-you for your account of your cousin, Sgt Lewis Roberston (Regt. No. 129812). Have you had a chance to look at his digitized CEF Service File? It can be viewed / downloaded here from Library and Archives Canada: http://central.bac-lac.gc.ca/.item/?op=pdf&app=CEF&id=B8363-S031 Cabar feidh! #CanadaRemembers

    • I visited northern France for 10 days this April. Just rented a car and went wherever looked interesting and connected to WWI. Before I left, I told everyone at my local VFW and American Legion (as a vet, I belong to both and am Past Commander of VFW) that if they knew anyone who knew someone buried over there from WWI, I would try to visit their gravesite and leave a flower from them. I got no takers and I was surprised. I had been looking forward to doing this. So, I made general donations at each cemetery I visited. Wish I would have known about your cousin. I am going back because 10 days was not enough.

    • There should be more taught in our schools about the real history of the country going back to the American Revolution. I am not talking about the politically correct version of history or the twisted spin that is given making us, the US, the bad guy. It is worthwhile to know the sacrifices we have made in the name of freedom most which was made in far away places all over the world. The AEF sent 2 million US troops to Europe and had another 2 million ready to go. General Pershing must have been an incredible force to build such an army so fast and he insisted on keeping command and training his force despite the politics. It is worth the time to read about his life and the fact as General of the Army he was on active duty until he died helping, advising and mentoring some of the leading WWII American Generals. Perhaps if some of the last two or three generations had the real story of the real sacrifices made by grandpa and great grand-pa, grandma, uncles, cousins,brothers, sister, neighbors,strangers in the name of freedom they would be less accepting of socialist propaganda and brainwashing.I commend you in your effort to visit the graves of those who never came back and lie in places like Flanders Field.

    • Thank you all for your comments. I’ve been away for a few weeks and read them all when I got back to my home computer. I am especially grateful to W. Michael Patience for sending the electronic files on Lewis Robertson. I just today finished reading each and every file as I had not previously seen many of the files. I’ve learned more details about my relative’s military service, details of how he died, and how the Army connected with his family after his death. I also wanted to thank Vickie Felton for her sentiments regarding her cemetery visitations. If you should visit to the Somme area and especially the Albert Memorial Cemetery Extension, I would sincerely appreciate a remembrance at his marker (1/Q/9, #667). A document I saw says the marker’s inscription reads “The world gained by his Service.” Thanks again to all.

  6. War is hell . Those who live through it suffer for the rest of their life and many take their own lives. I had a grandfather who was a disabled WWI veteran but we never learned much about what he endured. An aunt told me that he had been gassed
    which would account for his nervous twitches and his distant behavior. Back then it was probably called shell shock and not PTSD. It is a sad time that the newer generations have no clue of American History, the American Revolution, WWI, WWII, Korea, Vietnam the 75th Anniversary of the Normandy Landings. Its an even sadder time that many of our elected officials preach violence, hatred, the need for socialism and giving up the freedoms our founders outlined. I have visited some of the battlefields such as Verdun, the beaches of Normandy and many military grave sites. My family has all served including myself, my Dad, Uncles, Grandpa and my Niece. Today, July 4th 2019 should be a day America takes stock and takes a long hard look at the direction we have headed in. Freedom is not free and the price of freedom is eternal vigilance

    • Amen Jim! Well said!

    • Thanks Jim and another lesser known war that my Grandfather John Milton Cushman fought in the Spanish American War! That nobody talks about or even knows anything about?

  7. Both my grandfather Octave (who I lived with during my formative years) and his younger brother Camille (Belgium boys) were in the Canadian 22nd (vignt-deux) Battalion during the Battle of the Somme. Both were severely wounded, Camille on the first day of the battle (01JL16) near Ypres being one of those 57000 British first day casualties and my grandfather during the first day (?) of an autumn offensive on September 17, 1916 near Courcelette. After WWI, Camille returned to Belgium (sans a leg) and my grandfather immigrated into the U.S. They both had large families and lived into their 80’s.

    • And that Camille survived Ypres without the leg and with the mustard gas that seemed to rule that battle is quite the miracle! I don’t know as much about Courcelette; however, I cannot believe the Germans stopped using the gas.at Ypres. I am so happy you you are a part of their large family and can continue to tell their stories. God bless.

  8. Thank you Jenny for your post. We don’t seem to hear or read that much about WWI. My Dad was in the Muese Argonne campaign and I believe it has been to today the deadliest battle in US military history. Please keep your posts coming.

  9. My grandfather was a Cpt in charge of a gas warfare unit. He was in the majority of these battles. Sadly I never met him. He died in 1935. But it seems human life was expendable during WW1 & how he made it God was there with him. I do have one photo of him in the trenches of WW1. It is ghastly what those men had to endure. So it seems human life was cheap & over the assignation of one man which in my opinion was senseless as all wars are.

  10. My grandfather was in the 1st American tank battalion. Is name was Thompson and his grandfather was from Ireland and moved to the US in the 1800s. I am deeply moved by this story and history, unbelievable the Loss of life’s. Thank you for the history.

  11. My grandad was wounded at Theipval Wood during the Somme Offensive. He was recovering wounded from the field. He took a German machinegun found in the lung and spent five days in a shell crater waiting to be recovered. The passage through the various field hospitals and aid stations took twenty-five days before his evac to London. The bright spot was he met a young nurse during his recovery in hospital. They were married and my mother was one of their daughters. He was discharged as unable to perform the duties of a soldier. It took him over eight years to recover from his wounds. During the blitz, he took on the duties of an air raid warden in Mitcham. My family was pretty closed mouth about those times. Questions asked were often met with the response that those were unhappy times.

  12. My grandfather, a volunteer in the Canadian “Princess Pat’s” brigade, was badly wounded in the Flers-Courselette portion of the Battle of the Somme, the first day, as your story notes that tanks were used in battle. The tanks didn’t have much impact (most if them just mired in the mud and trenches), their radiators were inside the tank to protect from damage but consequently made the inside of the tank extremely hot, and the only way to communicate with command was via releasing pigeons.

  13. My grandfather fought in WW1 U S ARMY was gassed and suffered Shell shock—how would I find out more about his service? As you suspect everyone connected to him is long gone.

    • There is a way to get service records if you related to a former service member . I need to do the same thing but I know there is a records request form that needs to be filled out and sent to a federal agency that handles the requests. I think there may be information on this site or on the Veterans Administration. You can also check with a local Veterans agent in your city or town

    • http://www.archives.gov/st-louis/archival-programs

      This will take you to the archives home page. In the left column select the “Official Military Personnel Files (OMPFs)” which will take you to the correct page with information and instructions on how to request the information you desire. There are various types of information that you can request, each with their own forms and procedures…. just follow the links provided. Some applications can be done online but will also require a signature form to be submitted by mail or fax to include a reference number which will be provided to you when you submit the online request. You can choose to print the forms and mail the request and signature forms if you like. You will be notified if they are successful or not in finding the requested information, and if so, what the cost will be. When you settle up they will send the information.

    • To all of you inquiring about info on your grandfathers: may I suggest The National WW1 Museum in Kansas City, MO. https://www.theworldwar.org/explore/collections
      They were awesome in helping me with war diaries and maps when my brother and I were in France on Nov. 11, 2018 where our grandfather fought in the Meuse Argonne region.

    • Hi Glenn, You can apply online at the website of the St. Louis military records office of the National Archives, as Bruce Hanson has described. They will probably mail you a paper form to sign. Unfortunately a large fire back in the 1970s destroyed the vast majority of World War I records. They will still try to piece together what they can.

      My wife’s great uncle, Barney Travers Justesen, was an Army Air Corps navigator who was killed in action in France on September 14, 1918. (Original burial at Cem 33 Gr 73, Amer Cty., St. Symphorien, Tours, Indre-et-Loire) The only record the Archives found was his last pay record dated two weeks before he died. Good luck with your search.

  14. Here’s another view of WW I. My grandfather was an Austrian soldier, mobilized from the reserves in 1914 from the Austrian province of Galicia. He fought in the k.k.LIR #34,(Infantry Regiment) and from my research was captured by the Russians at the battle of Opatow in 1915. He was imprisoned at the Russian POW camp of Khabarovsk in Eastern Siberia until sometime in 1918 and didn’t return home until Spring of 1919. His experience has caused me to read a lot about the Eastern Front campaigns, which was never taught in school. I also learned that during 1914-1915, the village my grandmother and uncles and aunts lived in was occupied by Russians, and they had to move to safety in a larger town. My father was born after the war, after my grandfather returned home to this new town.

  15. Mike- I wrote a book titled Russian Sideshow on both the AEFNorth Russia and the AEF Siberia. Still available on Amazon but now out of print. I lived in Khabarovsk for a short time in 1998 and found it fascinating. I also just wrote a book about my travels which included much on the Russian Far East including Khabarovsk, Vladivostok, Komsomolsk and Magadan. Called Wandering the World Doing Good, and available on Amazon.

  16. My Great Uncle Arthur Mitchinson and his friend Frederick Grant enlisted in Banff Alberta Canada in the CEF. Sept 1916 Freddie was killed in the Battle of the Somme and my Uncle was wounded. I found out about this when the records all came online as none of this was ever discussed with the family. 4 Mitchinson brothers enlisted in Canada. They had immigrated from Cumberland UK but felt the call to defend King and Country. Horrific times and we should all learn our own history to understand what our ancestors did for us.

  17. One of my wife’s great uncles died at the Somme. He was from Scotland and was enlisted into the Australian Pioneers in Glasgow. His grave is at the Huts Cemetery.
    His brother died in 1918 in Treviso in Italy. A casualty of the “White War”.

  18. War would have been different if those making the decisions to advance had to lead that advance. Instead of being safe a thousand miles away

    • good statement

    • Long gone Glenn 🙂 You should be able to find information about his service by contacting the American Return Soldiers. I’m not sure what they are called over there. Just ask around someone will be able to let you know.

  19. John Harrington:

    What was the “White War”?

    • The White War probably refers to the Archangel battles where the 337th Infantry and others mostly from Michigan and Wisconsin were sent to safeguard the supplies sent to aid the Czar who, by the time they got there had been overthrown. The British led unit then became involved in the Russian Revolution and did not return to the US until mid 1919. The units involved were called the “Polar Bears”. For more about them check the U of Michigan Bentley Library which has archives. There is a Polar Bear burial ground in Troy, MI My cousin, John Fellrath was involved.

  20. Actually, it was the 339th Infantry Regiment, but you are right, Bentley Library is the best source. My wife’s uncle was with the 339th in Archangel in October 1918 and came down with the flu and died.

  21. We visited a wonderful museum in Northern Ireland last year near Bangor devoted to the battle. Anxious to express their solidarity as part of the UK, the Ulster protestants made a heroic effort and suffered incredible losses, just as the independence movement in the south-despite the failure of the Easter Rebellion- was swelling toward successful creation of the independent Irish Republic. The museum is an exquisite mid-size museum with devoted staff and volunteer corps who carried us through, most memorably, the “in the trenches” experience. And the Ulster Folk Park is nearby -also a must see with its great transportation museum which has a Titanic exhibit–a very nice followup to the world class Titanic Museum in Belfast.

  22. Thank you for posting the link to requesting service records. I heard from an aunt that my grandfather was the personal barber of General Pershing and am trying to verify that story. Indeed he was our family barber and used hand clippers and a straight edge razor that he sharpened on a leather strop. His WW2 draft card listed his occupation as barber but due to his disabilities from WWI he was not drafted .
    I saw an article some time back that Pershing’s statue was removed to some obscure place in Washington DC with a piss poor excuse that we don’t honor individuals. I am wanting to start a drive to get it moved to a place such as the National Mall where it is more prominent. I believe there is a project going on to have a WWI memorial in DC so perhaps that is the place. Any takers that will sign on ? Gen “Black Jack” Pershing was one of the country’s leading Generals who put together the American Expeditionary Force (AEF) . Very amazing history

  23. Patsie,

    I agree with your note about the lack of attention to the soldiers from New Zealand in the Somme. They deserve equal attention to all others under the same commands.

    As a retired American Army officer and history junkie, I appreciate the folks from New Zealand. I had the experience of serving in Vietnam in 1966-67, and 1969-70, I had occasional contact with soldiers from the Australian and New Zealand brigade who served there. They were great folks.

    I have had the privilege of living and visiting several nations around the world. My wife and I have placed New Zealand on the top of our list for future trips, and the opportunity to meet more New Zealanders.

    There are many of us who honor the good folks of New Zealand.

    Bob

  24. I understand everyone’s want of WWI important battles to be taught. What bothers me is America’s history not being taught…from the Indians to the present! They have presented our country’s history in a pick and choose way! How many people know that there was a lynching in 1981? So much is missed.

    I watch a lot of documentaries regarding World War I and World War II which represents important information that I did not know regarding these wars. I don’t think we can be taught everything regarding those warships..,there is so much history out there.

    I Love history and finding out things I never knew existed.

  25. There was a man in our community who fought in WWI. He had mustard gas get into his lungs. He was a barber because that was the extent of physical activity he could handle. I was a member of our volunteer ambulance crew. I helped take him to the VA Hospital in Madison WI several times. Talk about your bad experiences! One time we stayed with him for any hour until they could finally free someone up to be with him. Another time we had to leave him there in the hallway by himself. We went to find someone and were assured that there would be someone there in “a few minutes”. i always wondered how long he was by himself. This was 45 years ago. I have heard that things have improved 110% in this regard at the VA since then. I once saw his hospital records. This was back when paper records were the order of the day. There were 2 stacks, both of which were at least 6 inches thick! He and his wife were the friendliest people you ever wanted to meet. There was no “woe is me”, attitude. I also knew several other WWI vets including the man who was my barber growing up. This guy was as salty as they came. If you didn’t want his opinion on anything you were best to keep your mouth shut.

    My great-uncle was in the army. My dad told me that of his my great-grandpa said he could afford to lose him over my grandfather. Apparently, as a young man my great-uncle wasn’t the hardest of workers. That had changed when he got home from the army. My other grandpa was only 16 when the war ended.

  26. Hello I was taught by an Australian WW1 veteran how to tickle trout by tickling them.
    Choose a small creek walk upstream near one bank with your hand up in the space under the bank. When you touch a trout tail gently start ticking its belly from tail first. It will stay still. Then as you reach the head put your fingers in its gills and lift it out onto the bank. It was easy to catch about 5 per hour.
    My best friend and I are grateful and now in Australian Aged Care homes.

  27. I see lots of information about the Somme and when I saw the town of Albert mentioned in this blog, I took particular notice, as this was somewhere near where my Grandad met his maker. However, that battle took place near Albert, but in September 1914 and with the wealth of information about the different battles…. not much seems to refer to this period.

    • There are online references to the First Battle of Albert as part of the “Race to the Sea” that began in late September 1914 and ended in early October. It involved the French 2nd Army and German 6th Army. Looks like early engagements were at Bapaume and then Thiepval, both a few miles from Albert.

  28. My grandfather suffered in the battle of the Somme. He came home to Liverpool from New York to fight for king and country. He went over the top and like so many young men was shot down. He was left injured in “no mans land” for 3 days when a French farmer was collecting bodies on a cart. He noticed under the pile, a finger move! Thanks to his quick actions my grandfather was pulled out from the pile of bodies and he was saved… he was still alive.We never knew who this French man was but my family were eternally grateful. My grandfather lived to his mid seventies but never spoke about his experiences. I only know this story because my aunt retold it to me. In the early 1970s England was enduring what was called the 3 day week and without notice large areas of towns and cities were suddenly cut off from any power. No electricity. My aunt came home and the house was in darkness and she found her father ( my grandfather) in a terrible state. The sudden darkness had forced him to relive his terrible time on “no mans land”. I can only assume that he must have suffered terribly and was haunted by bad memories. We shall never know because like so many of their generation they didn’t talk about it. Their sacrifice should never be forgotten.

    My father, like his father before, fought in World War 2 and was part of the allied forces after DDay. He too never shared his experiences.

  29. No more brother wars! And for what? To transport the population of Africa and the Middle East to Europe to replace tens of milions of dead European men and tens of millions of aborted European babies? World War 1, which led to World War 2, was the greatest folly in human history.

  30. I wish the History channel or some other channels would show more documentaries about the wars, even if it is horrifying, disturbing and depressing. Kaisers and emperors did so much posturing resulting in unimaginable loss of young lives.

  31. Re Linda
    My great uncle Arthur Simons also died on the 15th September 1916. The first day of the use of tanks .I had the privilege to be at High wood and the Theipval memorial 100 years to the day to remember Arthur
    It was something I had wanted to do for a long time.
    My grandfather also fought at the Somme and was wounded

  32. My father fought in WW1 in the Royal Artillery firing 60-pounder guns on the Somme. He was nearly killed at least three times, once when the two soldiers he was with died shielding him involuntarily from an exploding shell. He was eventually invalided out with severe dysentery and nearly perished when the ship he was to have been aboard was torpedoed in the English Channel with total loss of life. Luckily for him – and his descendants! – his boarding of that vessel was avoided because it was already full. Had he been in the infantry, with its extremely heavy casualty rate, I probably wouldn’t have been born.
    He spoke little of his war experiences but I’ve often wondered if he suffered, like thousands of other survivors, with ‘Survivor Guilt’ or even PTSD, as it’s now called.
    He eventually became Chief Constable of Salisbury City Police Force and was responsible for ARP (Air Raid Precautions) in WW2. He died age 95 having been born in 1889.

  33. My father Cecil P. Thorowgood was at the Battle of the Somme as an army despatch rider and despite a shrapnel wound to his leg, thankfully survived (or else I wouldn’t be here to tell the tale). He was taken to Bronfay Farm near Albert which had a field dressing station. In gratitude when he retired he named his house Bronfay. My brother and I have since been there to pay homage to see where our father recovered. There is a little cemetery opposite where sadly those who didn’t survive were buried. We walked in the ploughed fields and almost every step has fragments of warfare. We were given an old hand grenade found in the fields as a souvenir but decided that it was a bit risky taking it back to UK via the channel tunnel so reluctantly left it with friends in France. My father would never have dreamt that his children would one day walk over the same floor tiles as he did when he was 18. What a huge sacrifice that generation made for our freedom today that we so readily take for granted.

  34. The Somme was not the first major battle for the new volunteer army. Several of its divisions had participated in the Battle of Loos in late September 1915.

  35. World War I taught us how dreadful war can be, as if we didn’t know it already. Even worse it showed us that it is much easier to start a war than it is to avoid one. The Germans with their Schieffen Plan thought it would be all over in 6 weeks. It looks like they were wrong.

  36. Thanks to all Aussies and Kiwis but don’t forget the mother small colony whose Troops suffered a similar fate. South Africa.

    My grand uncle Lawrence KIA in the battle for the Somme, buried in Thiepval France,was driven by blind patriotism to fight with his mates

    • I was thinking the same, Lucille: “For six days and five nights a soldier was killed every minute, with one South African soldier dying every three minutes…”
      Out of 3 153 men who entered Delville Wood, only 142 walked out alive.

    • It’s a terrible price to pay, isn’t it. We have people – well, back then we had men in power who never had the need to come face to face with their enemy, and they had men who never had an enemy who had to come face to face with people they were told were the enemy… yet they’d never met them, had no fight with them but still had to kill them.
      There is absolutely no logic in war, I wonder why we can’t send the people who declare war to go fight those who oppose them and leave the rest of us alone?
      Could we not shepherd them out into a huge rink and let them get on with it.

      We are what they call ‘cannon fodder’… how cruel is that to those men who fought and died, leaving their families behind – or those who came home battered and beaten to their families who had to, for the rest of their lives, hold them together.

      It’s definitely time things changed.

    • Amen Carolyn and Anne Brown.

      And we should never forget that some of those who walked out of Delville Wood (and other battles) and came back from France went right back in WW2.

      All we can do is remember them with honor as most of the current generation doesn’t Know when or where WW1 was fought.

      And almost no-one knows who started it.

      https://www.forces-war-records.co.uk/dedication-wall/680/lawrence-wallace-breakey

  37. When I was a youngster my grandfather gave me a coin in a leather pouch. It was the size of a half dollar but lots heavier. It had a warrior on one side and said Verdun on the other. When I asked where he got it he just said he just picked it up somewhere. He was in France when my father was born.

  38. And those South African men who fought for “their King” are also seldom mentioned. My grandfather was gassed at Ypres, and my great uncles were also at the Somme. The youngest, Harold “Dux” Hewat, aged 20, was killed just a few months before the ceasefire at the battle at Merrier’s Woods. My husband and I drove around the various areas where these men fought. The only real commemoration for the South Africans is at Delville Woods. I am fortunate enough to have letters my great uncles wrote to my grandmother from the trenches. They are heart breaking. Like so many others, they had never been far from where they were born in small towns in South Africa, and now they were sent thousands of miles away to Hell.

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  40. My father in law fought in that Battle and later in life he died of cancer which was caused by the chemical warfare.

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  42. If you ever have a chance to be in Kansas City, they have a wonderful World War museum and memorial. Check it out on-line. I love the large metal poppies in front. So full of the story of the whole war. All the famous generals like Pershing and other countries were there for the dedication of the memorial. Its now a National Museum.

  43. We might be great rivals in sport but when it comes to a war and we are all united on the same side we present a good team and I don’t think the united effort will ever be forgotten and neither should it be.
    Its just a shame it seems to need a conflict for us to appreciate our close relationships, we will need all our old friends when Brexit happens!!!!!!!

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