The Somme - Dawn 01 July 1916

Ninety one years ago, the British trenches on the Somme were full of soldiers trying to get some sleep before "the Big Push".

The British Army suffered its worst ever number of casualties on 01 July 1916. Some villages and some families never recovered from losing "the flower of their menfolk".

In Memoriam

Agreed. I think tonight we should all raise a glass to those poor souls.
With proud thanksgiving, a mother for her children,
England mourns for her dead across the sea.
Flesh of her flesh they were, spirit of her spirit,
Fallen in the cause of the free.

Solemn the drums thrill; Death august and royal
Sings sorrow up into immortal spheres,
There is music in the midst of desolation
And a glory that shines upon our tears.

They went with songs to the battle, they were young,
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted;
They fell with their faces to the foe.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

They mingle not with their laughing comrades again;
They sit no more at familiar tables of home;
They have no lot in our labour of the day-time;
They sleep beyond England's foam.

But where our desires are and our hopes profound,
Felt as a well-spring that is hidden from sight,
To the innermost heart of their own land they are known
As the stars are known to the Night;

As the stars that shall be bright when we are dust,
Moving in marches upon the heavenly plain;
As the stars that are starry in the time of our darkness,
To the end, to the end, they remain.

Laurence Binyon - 1914
Am reminded of the song

The flowers of the forest.

Faugh a Ballagh
Indeed, Litotes. I sit here attempting to put myself there, as was this moment 91 years ago, and failing. It's incomprehensible. My glass is raised and my thoughts with those brave souls.

My Great Great Uncle was among them. He survived almost 3 months in that hell before he was killed. Upon visiting his nme etched on one of the pillars at Thiepval the dense of proportion of wasted life and the profoudly moving atmosphere of the Somme is forever within me.

For my Gt Gt Uncle James and all those who died alongside him:

If I should die, think only this of me:
That there's some corner of a foreign field
That is for ever England. There shall be
In that rich earth a richer dust concealed;
A dust whom England bore, shaped, made aware,
Gave, once, her flowers to love, her ways to roam,
A body of England's, breathing English air,
Washed by the rivers, blest by suns of home.

And think, this heart, all evil shed away,
A pulse in the eternal mind, no less
Gives somewhere back the thoughts by England given;
Her sights and sounds; dreams happy as her day;
And laughter, learnt of friends; and gentleness,
In hearts at peace, under an English heaven.

Rupert Brooke
After walking the Somme Battlefields, it must be one of the saddest places ive been to, the lists of the missing, the thought that those now peaceful fields contained thousands of the missing.

The minds of the men not in the first wave but those of the second and third waves who walked over what was descibed as hells abattoir, a drink to them, and they will not be forgotten
I shall drink to their memory tonight and thank them for the sacrifice that they made.
Having done many battlefield tours I must say that the Somme is probably one of the most sad and solemn places that I've ever visited. The silence is a living memorial to the pain that others suffered.

My great uncle was killed on 1/7/16 serving with 1st South Staffs. He is remembered on the Thiepval memorial and in the pub this evening.


1st July 1916- the most poignant date I know in British Army history.

A glass of the Tawny will be raised to the fallen-not forgotten.

Captain John Leslie Green VC Royal Army Medical Corps attached to 1st/5th Battalion Sherwood Foresters at Gommecourt on 1st July 1916 although wounded he went to the assistance of an officer caught up on the enemy's wire and in so doing he was himself killed.

Capt Green is buried in Foncquevillers, the cemetery is bordered by a low stone wall all around, with a wooden gate at the entrance. In Plot 1, Row L are the headstones marking what is in effect a mass grave of men who died on the 1st of July, 1916. Many of the headstones have three names inscribed.

Foncquevillers is a village which was just behind the British front lines in the 1916 battles. Foncquevillers Military Cemetery is to the north-west of the village, and was originally begun by the French (when they held this part of the line). When the British took over this sector, they continued to use it, with many burials dating from July 1916, the early Somme offensives.

In Arduis Fidelis.
The Devonshires held this trench and The Devonshires hold it still, the Company were buried in the front line trench that they left to be mown down on the 1st July.
Green fields of France said:
Well, how ya doing, Private William McBride?
Do you mind if I sit here, down by your graveside?
And I'll rest for a while in the warm summer sun,
I've been walking all day, Lord, and I'm nearly done.
I see by your gravestone, you were only nineteen,
When you joined the glorious fallen in 1916.
Well I hope you died quick and I hoped you died clean.
Or Willie McBride, was it slow and obscene?

Did they beat the drum slowly?
Did they sound the fife lowly?
Did the rifles fire o'er ye as they lowered ye down?
Did the bugle sing Last Post and chorus?
Did the pipes play the Fleurs o' the Forest?

And did you leave a wife or a sweetheart behind?
In some faithful heart is your memory enshrined?
And though you died back in 1916,
To that loyal heart, are you always 19?
Or are you a stranger, without even a name,
Forever enshrined behind some glass pane,
In an old photograph, torn, 'n' tattered and stained,
And fading to yellow in a brown leather frame?

Well the sun's shining now on these Green Fields of France.
The warm wind blows gently and the red poppies dance.
The trenches have vanished long under the plough.
No gas and no barbed wire, no guns firing now.
But here in this graveyard it's still No Man's Land,
The countless white crosses in mute witness stand.
To man's blind indifference to his fellow man,
And a whole generation who were butchered and damned.

And I can't help but wonder now Willie McBride,
Do all those who lie here, know why they died?
Did you really believe them when they told you the cause?
Did you really believe that this war would end wars?
The suffering, the sorrow, the glory, the shame,
The killing, the dying, it was all done in vain.
For Willie McBride it all happened again,
And again and again and again and again…
A very moving song, Last 2 verses bring a lump to my throat,
RIP, We shall remember them
pimpernel said:
The Devonshires held this trench and The Devonshires hold it still, the Company were buried in the front line trench that they left to be mown down on the 1st July.
163 men of the 8th and 9th Devons - particularly A coy of the 8th lie there.
You might be interested to know a bit more about our role in the annual commemoration of start of the Battle of the Somme at Thiepval on 1st July.

Piers Storie-Pugh, the Head of Remembrance Travel (and Poppy Travel) sent the following to Legion members.

I am pleased to confirm that the service at Thiepval which we help to support continues to draw extensive attendance and yesterday about 1,100 people were there. Our new Ambassador in Paris HE Sir Peter Westmacott lead the proceedings and Dr Ian Paisley was prominent guest. His main purpose was to support the Ulster Tower ceremony which always follow on from Thiepval.

The band of The Royal Irish played and the address was given by Father Stephen Alker from HQ Chaplain General's Department at Upavon. This superb address carefully wove a story of the tragedy and sacrifice of The Somme along with the sacrifice of young men and women today. Only last week he had conducted the funeral service for one of the latest victims of the war in the Middle East. The Legion's own large Pilgrimage, led by Brigadier James Drew who gave the Exhortation, consisted almost entirely of relatives of men who had fallen in the battle of The Somme

Yesterday was the 15th anniversary of Remembrance Travel's involvement with the anniversary service. When the Assistant Defence Attaché post in The British Embassy Paris was disestablished in 1992 under Options for Change there was a real likelihood that the French would assume responsibility for the Thiepval event. So together The British Consulate General Lille, in whose diplomatic parish The Somme falls, and Remembrance Travel teamed up to ensure the continuance of this important event. Now The British Embasssy is taking on the main role and thus this event's future is assured.

The Somme Battle brought together elements of The Regular Army,. Territorials', some conscripts, Kitcheners New Army and The Empire Troops. This hotchpotch of an army was welded into a razor sharp field force. When the end came, as it did in November 1916, the exhausted, shattered but professional British Army stood ready to bear the brunt of the fighting in 1917 in Ypres and in 1918. Those who died on The Somme contributed to that final victory and that we should never forget.

Yesterday's event proved that the annual service is important and worthy of support. Anyone is welcome to attend and I hope that many of you might wish to be there in the future.
I believe the final number of British casualties was in the order of 420000. That is a frightening and sobering thought. Makes me feel very humble.
My maternal Grandfather served 1914 -1918 with the Royal Artillery.
He always blamed his 'Piles' in later life being due to riding wet Horses when pulling Guns!.
Although when alive, he never spoke of the Great War much.
I still have his Medals.

May they all RIP.

RABC said:
I believe the final number of British casualties was in the order of 420000. That is a frightening and sobering thought. Makes me feel very humble.
419,654 offical casualties reported to the AG in fact. This number may be as much as 5 per cent over-inflated, due to personnel subsequently reporting who were missing at roll-calls. 5% would mean 20982 casualties!
How many towns and villages lost an entire generation of men ?? I will raise a glass to all of them, especially my late Grandad , who survived the war. He never talked about it though. My Grandmother said they had to burn his uniform when he got back from the trenches, as it was so filthy and infested.

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