The Somme 1st July 1916

#1
At 07.20 the Hawthorn ridge mine exploded and so started the worst day in the history of the British army. 20.000 dead and almost another 40.000 casualties

Lest we forget
 
#2
For anybody up at the Somme tomorrow events are:RBL Service at Thiepval 1030hrs, Somme Association Commemorative Service at the Ulster Tower at 1430hrs, 1830hrs Beating the Retreat outside Albert Mairie (Town Hall) with the band of the Royal Irish Regiment.
 
#3
My paternal grandfather was there, 2RF (a regular who joined-up in 1910).



Here's an overlay of a still of that film of the mine detonation under Hawthorne Redoubt laid-over the location as it is today.

 
#5
A bloody day and unfortunately just one of many such days.
 
#6
At 07.20 the Hawthorn ridge mine exploded and so started the worst day in the history of the British army. 20.000 dead and almost another 40.000 casualties

Lest we forget

I don't want to forget, and I am very aware of the sacrifices made. But I do think it is time to question the premises on which the 1st Day of the Somme has become enshrined as the second national day of Remembrance. The 1st of July is a great commorative occasion from the 07.30 Lochnargar Crater affaior through to the Canadians in the afternoon and the Legion dinner.

However, I would like to question why we commemorate the 1st Day of the Somme purely as being a disaster? The whole matter is being treated as if it were a national tragedy out of context with the rest of the campaign.

I don't think 1st of July 1916 was the worst day in the history of the British Military History. The surrender of Singapore on 15 February 1942 cost Britain 80,000 casualties in a humiliating surrender which signalled the end of the British Empire in the Far East. The fatality rate of 27% among the PoW condemned more to die than were killed 1st July 1916. All the remainder suffered injuries or sickness of some sort.

As Brits we love a good disaster. I can understand why amongst the general public it is regarded in such terms. However, the ARRSE history forum is populated by people with deeper knowledge than Joe Public. It seems a pity that the 1st of July is rarely considered except in terms of its cost to the British Army. The 1st Day of the Somme was a painful and very costly day. But its losses were only a fraction of the total over the next 143 days. It wasn't even a complete failure. From the German point of view the 1st day was a disaster. The allies had achieved a break in on the southern third of the attack frontage. Yet how much of the commemoration of the Somme will visit anywhere south of Lochnagar Crater?

There is a comparison with the Red Army and the capture of Berlin. The Red army had a rotten start to the battle incurring heavy casualties on the Seelow Heights. But no one would consider the Seelow heights in isolation from the fall of Berlin. )Furthermore, over the 15 days between 16 April and 1 May the Soviets lost 80k dead and 280k wounded or sick. That is a 1st day of the Somme every four days. It is a daily loss rate approaching nine time higher than that of the British on the Somme, who lost 400k casualties over 143 days.

Just a thought.
 
#8
WWI makes Afghanistan look like a playground fight between kids. I think it's even impossible for those of us who have been in contact to visualise what they went through. Just read 'Tommy' by Richard Holmes and is by far the most informative book I've read on the war.
 
#9
At 07.20 the Hawthorn ridge mine exploded and so started the worst day in the history of the British army. 20.000 dead and almost another 40.000 casualties

Lest we forget
Aye - and by this time on the night before, many units were already well into a heavily-laden 9(+) hour night approach march via the communication trenches, to reach their Start Line positions, just forward of the front line trenches.

Bless 'em all.
 

Pararegtom

LE
Book Reviewer
#10
WWI makes Afghanistan look like a playground fight between kids. I think it's even impossible for those of us who have been in contact to visualise what they went through. Just read 'Tommy' by Richard Holmes and is by far the most informative book I've read on the war.

Totally agree Fally, My Grandfather on my mothers side fought with the 51st Highland Div The Seaforths.At Ypres then the Somme picture to follow Granddad on Fathers side done Gallipoli. Nothing can compere to the slaughter. Rest in Peace
51st (Highland) Division (World War I) - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
 

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#11
My Grandfather on July 1st was with the Manchester pals and took part in the successful attack on Montauban. Following research through the Manchester Pals and the First WW forums I was able to track his way through the war with the Pals. Luckily he survived and I remember as a 14 year old asking him about the war and he always just sort of clouded over in his eyes and never talked about it much. I think it is brilliant that the internet has enabled us to appreciate the real hell these guys went through. Grandad you are my hero.
 
#12
My Grandfather was a Stretcher Bearer with 110th Fld Amb 36th (Ulster) Div, my Dad always said that he never spoke about his experiences during WWI.
 
#13
My grandfather was one of the Barnsley Pals (West Yorks and Lancs). He was shot through the thigh somewhere near Gommecourt, or Serre, I think, on July 1st. They gave him the piece of thigh bone they removed as a souvenir in a presentation case.

He was actually in a reserved occupation; a coal miner just south of Barnsley (Hoyland Common). But he volunteered anyway because he wanted a taste of the 'glory'.
 
#14
#15
A debt that we who are left can never repay. All we can give them is out eternal gratitude and remembrance. This goes for all those who have fought and died in service of our country. RIP
 
#16
I don't want to forget, and I am very aware of the sacrifices made. But I do think it is time to question the premises on which the 1st Day of the Somme has become enshrined as the second national day of Remembrance. The 1st of July is a great commorative occasion from the 07.30 Lochnargar Crater affaior through to the Canadians in the afternoon and the Legion dinner.

However, I would like to question why we commemorate the 1st Day of the Somme purely as being a disaster? The whole matter is being treated as if it were a national tragedy out of context with the rest of the campaign.
I think The Somme is remembered because it didn't just stamp on the face of optimism, it ground it deep into the mud. The name itself sounds grim- it suggests sorrow, solemnity, sobbing, it has the power of a bogeyman. It is in the psyche of all the generations born here since, certainly as far as my own, children of the fifties, sixties and seventies whose grandfathers fought there, or one of the other places- it was all The Somme as far as we were concerned- and said nothing about what they had seen or done there- it's a cliché because it's true. I think it's odd how war memorials are taken for granted, not in the sense of the upkeep of their fabric, but how they are so ubiquitous: Almost every village with its role of honour, quite often with the same surname repeated two or three times. It's the scale of it, the waste and sheer bloody terror, and that's what the words The Somme say to me. I think we remember on the first day of The Somme because we are reminded all the time- it is in us.
Singapore was as big a shock but the grief was drip fed, the name says something else: Shame. You have to feel very sorry for those soldiers who paid the price for abysmal leadership but the imagery of British troops parading past gloating Japanese captors evokes anger of another kind than that generated by the jerky pictures of blokes who answered Kitcheners call walking into the machine gun fire. Even if the outcome was the same for many of them.
 
#17
I think The Somme is remembered because it didn't just stamp on the face of optimism, it ground it deep into the mud. The name itself sounds grim- it suggests sorrow, solemnity, sobbing, it has the power of a bogeyman. It is in the psyche of all the generations born here since, certainly as far as my own, children of the fifties, sixties and seventies whose grandfathers fought there, or one of the other places- it was all The Somme as far as we were concerned- and said nothing about what they had seen or done there- it's a cliché because it's true. I think it's odd how war memorials are taken for granted, not in the sense of the upkeep of their fabric, but how they are so ubiquitous: Almost every village with its role of honour, quite often with the same surname repeated two or three times. It's the scale of it, the waste and sheer bloody terror, and that's what the words The Somme say to me. I think we remember on the first day of The Somme because we are reminded all the time- it is in us.
I agree that as a children of the second half of the C20th the Somme seems to have been with us forever.

But the Somme did not attract much interest until Lyn Macdonald, Martin Middlebrook and Joan Littlewood revisited the Somme in the 1960s. When I think back to the old veterans I met as a boy the Somme was just one of several names which conjured suffering. Historically British commemoration has been focused on Ypres and the Salient. No one held ceremonies annually at the Somme until relatively recently. The Thiepval visitor centre is less than ten years old. The commemoration of the Somme has grown and it may say more about what we want to remember than a continuous link to the past.

When you write of the Somme rubbing out optimism and grinding it into the mud, are you referring to what it means to you, now, or what you think it meant at the time? The impression I gain from the contemporary sources is that British Army came out of the Somme bloodied but confident that they had given the Germans a bloody nose and ready to put the lessons learned into practice in 1917. Its the long struggle in 3rd Ypres that drained the British Army of its sense of optimism.

The problem I have with the focus on the 1st Day of the Somme is that it distorts how we see the events of the Great War. Why should it be that the medals of a man killed on the 1st day of the Somme should be more valuable than someone who died on any other day or in 1918 on the same ground? If we focus our commemoration on an inconclusive day in the middle of the war, is it any surprise that the public cannot get its mind around the story of 1918?
 
#18
I think the reason the Somme has had such a massive effect on the British psyche is because it is the first taste we had of such massive slaughter in our modern history with 19,000 KIA in a single day, compared to Waterloo with around 5,000 British KIA. Modern media though in its infancy would also have helped more people find out more deatil, much faster than in the past and although there was censorship in place it was impossible to surpress news of such massive casualties.
The French, Germans, Austrians, Russians and Americans had all experienced slaughter on such a scale in their recent history before WW1 and so arguably were aware and more accepting of the horrors of industrialised warfare.
 
#19
After the opening of the British attack on the Somme, with its 57,000 casualties on the first day, whole streets and suburbs fell into mourning. Just about every family, high and low, was touched by death. Prior to the Somme The Australian AIF had the Battle of Fromelles, a year before. There appears to been more death than glory. Lest We Forget.

My Maternal Grandfather: 1st AIF 12th Battalion, awarded the MM, 1914 - 1918
 
#20
Sadly don't know enough about my great-grandfathers to know if they were there at the time. Unimaginable.

Lest we forget.
 

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