Friday, July 1, 2016

July 1, 2016 marks the centenary of the Battle of the Somme

A UK-wide two-minute silence at 07:28 BST marked the start of the World War One battle on 1 July 1916. More than a million men were killed or wounded on all sides at the Somme. The Battle of the Somme, one of WW1's bloodiest, was fought in northern France and lasted five months, with the British suffering almost 60,000 casualties on the first day alone. The British and French armies fought the Germans in a brutal battle of attrition on a 15-mile front.

At the Forgotten role of Indian soldiers who served in First World War marked at last Memorial ceremony, close to the battlefields of the Somme, Prince Charles gave a reading from The Old Front Line by John Masefield who visited the Somme in 1917 and recounted a landscape devastated by war. This was followed by the hymn Abide With Me.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, The Most Reverend Justin Welby, said in a prayer: "On this day we remember all those caught up by the Battle on the Somme; those who faced the terrible waste and devastation, those who fought against all the odds, who endured the clinging mud and squalor of the trenches." Prime Minister David Cameron read the words of Corporal Jim Crow, 110th Brigade, Royal Field Artillery, which highlighted a moment of humanity and mutual respect amid the hell that that part of France had become.

The actor Charles Dance read "Aftermath", a poem by Siegfried Sassoon, which asks "Have you forgotten yet?" At a vigil in France on Thursday evening, the Duke of Cambridge paid tribute to the fallen soldiers, saying "we lost the flower of a generation". Everything is different here now, compared to this day 100 years ago. That morning thousands of British, Commonwealth, French and German soldiers woke to bright sunshine and birdsong, and looked out on fields mangled by trenches and bombardment as they contemplated what was ahead.

Today rain poured down on 10,000 people sitting on chairs set out in parallel lines, surrounded by perfectly manicured lawns, as they remembered the nearly 20,000 Britons who died here on this day a century ago, and contemplated what had passed. They looked up at the Theipval Memorial to the missing. Those who gave readings stood between its imposing walls and the names of 72,000 men who fought here, but were never found.

Royalty, heads of state and actors recalled what happened here through the words of those that lived it. So too did serving personnel - some, young men, just like many of the 57,000 who were killed or injured during what remains the worst day in British military history.

At an early-morning ceremony at the Lochnagar crater, which was created by an explosion at the start of the battle in La Boiselle, a rocket was fired to simulate the artillery fire.
This was followed by whistles to symbolise those that were blown a century ago as men scrambled from the trenches.

The Battle of the Somme
  • Began on 1 July 1916 and was fought along a 15-mile front near the River Somme in northern France
  • 19,240 British soldiers died on the first day - the bloodiest day in the history of the British army
  • The British captured just three square miles of territory on the first day
  • At the end of hostilities, five months later, the British had advanced just seven miles and failed to break the German defence
  • In total, there were more than a million dead and wounded on all sides, including 420,000 British, about 200,000 from France and an estimated 465,000 from Germany
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The Battle of the Somme was intended to achieve a decisive victory for the British and French against Germany's forces. The British army was forced to play a larger than intended role after the German attack on the French at Verdun in February 1916. World War One finally ended in November 1918.

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