This Day 1916.

#1
Current state of play:

Newfoundland Regiment - 801 souls. 500 Dead - only 68 uninjured.

Advance a complete failure north of the Albert - Bapaume road.

Tyneside Irish Brigade wiped out.

By the end of today the British will have lost 57470 of whom 19240 will be dead. The Professional BEF will have ended and from this point on it will be a citizen army.

I cannot conceive of the magnificent courage shown by these men who continued to fight on until the 18th of November.

They may be gone but we should never forget the sacrifice of the Old Contemptibles.
 
#2
"The leading battalions (of the 36th (Ulster) Division) had been ordered out from the wood just before 7.30am and laid down near the German trenches ... At zero hour the British barrage lifted. Bugles blew the "Advance". Up sprang the Ulstermen and, without forming up in the waves adopted by other divisions, they rushed the German front line ..... By a combination of sensible tactics and Ulster dash, the prize that eluded so many, the capture of a long section of the German front line, had been accomplished. ”
—Martin Middlebrook

(Within a few hours almost 5700 of this Division were dead, wounded or missing.

Brave men all, whether Regular, Territorial, or New Army.

And the surviving Newfoundlanders and their reinforcements went back into action a few months later!.
 
#3
Current state of play:

Newfoundland Regiment - 801 souls. 500 Dead - only 68 uninjured.

Advance a complete failure north of the Albert - Bapaume road.

Tyneside Irish Brigade wiped out.

By the end of today the British will have lost 57470 of whom 19240 will be dead. The Professional BEF will have ended and from this point on it will be a citizen army.

I cannot conceive of the magnificent courage shown by these men who continued to fight on until the 18th of November.

They may be gone but we should never forget the sacrifice of the Old Contemptibles.
I think you will find that the "Old Contemptibles" were the men of the pre war Regular Army sent out in 1914 who were pretty much cut to pieces in the retreat to Mons & earlier stages in the first year of the War! The Army who attacked on the Somme in 1916 had large numbers of "Kitcheners Army" the hundreds of thousands of patriotic young & some not so young men who had responded to Kitcheners appeal "your country needs you"! So an army of willing volunteers, hence the massive losses in the "Pals" battalions raised at that time! One of my Great Uncles was one of these and was wounded on the first Day of the Somme!
 
#4
"The History of the East Lancashire Regiment in the Great War" records that out of some 720 Accrington Pals who took part in the attack, 584 were killed, wounded or missing.

"The result of the H.E. shells, shrapnel, machine-gun and rifle fire was such that hardly any of our men reached the German front trench. The lines which advanced in such admirable order, melted away under fire; yet not a man wavered, broke the ranks or attempted to go back. I have never seen, indeed could never have imagined such a magnificent display of gallantry, discipline and determination." (Brigadier-General H. C. Rees, GOC of 94th Brigade.)
 
#5
I think you will find that the "Old Contemptibles" were the men of the pre war Regular Army sent out in 1914 who were pretty much cut to pieces in the retreat to Mons & earlier stages in the first year of the War! The Army who attacked on the Somme in 1916 had large numbers of "Kitcheners Army" the hundreds of thousands of patriotic young & some not so young men who had responded to Kitcheners appeal "your country needs you"! So an army of willing volunteers, hence the massive losses in the "Pals" battalions raised at that time! One of my Great Uncles was one of these and was wounded on the first Day of the Somme!
The tragedy of the "Pals" battalions was that they each recruited very locally. As a result when they went into action whole communities lost most of their menfolk in a few hours.

I believe that when the Army realised the consequences, it changed postings to spread people around the regiments.
 
#7
I think you will find that the "Old Contemptibles" were the men of the pre war Regular Army sent out in 1914 who were pretty much cut to pieces in the retreat to Mons & earlier stages in the first year of the War!
Pardon my ignorance, but if the first shots the Old Contemptibles fired were actually at Mons (in the woods next to SHAPE), how did so many of them die before they got there? Were there two separate battles of Mons?
 
#9
Pardon my ignorance, but if the first shots the Old Contemptibles fired were actually at Mons (in the woods next to SHAPE), how did so many of them die before they got there? Were there two separate battles of Mons?
In fairness OC has no idea how the chronology of WW1 pans out.

The Old Comtemptibles were the pre war regular army that deployed to Belgium in 1914. Their initial contacts with the German Army were in the area of Mons.

Following this they fought a fighting retreat all the way South to the Rivers Marne and Aisne where after a couple of punch ups there was movement to the North known as the Race to the sea. On the way they fought the First Battle of Ypres and the gunners won a few gongs at Le Cateau during the Mons Retreat.

By January 1915 the old regular army was a spent force but was kept up to strength by Reservists and the TA. Messines Ridge is a good example of the TA contribution.

So look at 1914 as the Regulars War, 1915 as the reinforcements war and 1916 as the War fought by the Kitchener Regiments, the men who volunteered in 1914 and 1915.

Of course there were some who went from 1914 until 1918 my Grandfather was one of these.
 
#11
It is probable, some would say certain, that many of our best and brightest of many nationalities were lost in that dreadful four years of carnage. We may not as a people have realised this at the time but this was the end of the British Empire for example. It would be another generation and the loss of many more of our sons and daughters in what we called WW2, actually a continuation of the Great War, before we stumblingly and unwillingly accepted the wounds that that earlier conflict had inflicted.

No other war, before or since, has created greater universal change, whether in the humblest household or the highest national power.

Those brave men, of whatever social status, who died on that day, and in the many battles of that great struggle, deserve our respect.
Those who survived, damaged but alive, no less so.

The passage of ninety-five years does not diminish this.
 
#12
So look at 1914 as the Regulars War, 1915 as the reinforcements war and 1916 as the War fought by the Kitchener Regiments, the men who volunteered in 1914 and 1915.
Without wishing to detract in any way from the courage and endeavour of others I offer the following.
The 36th (Ulster) Division, and soon after, the 16th (Irish) Division, were somewhat outside these categories. Yes they were New Army, but not quite as "immature" despite neither having experienced battle before.

They, and particularly the 36th, had for some two years before been training for conflict in the highways and byways of their native Ireland. As the Ulster Volunteer Force they learnt camouflage and concealment, fire and movement, and minor battlefield tactics until they were second nature to them. An "esprit de corps" was well established, comradeship and teamwork had been developed to a fine art, and morale was at a peak. This gave them a slight edge on their New Army comrades.

When they went into battle on that fateful morning of the 1st July, they, as is the nature of their race, did not quite follow instruction to the letter. They had their own tactics.

Hence that stupendous race into and through the Schwaben Redoubt. Sadly they outran their flanking support. They paid in blood and the rest is history.

Sometime later, undaunted, the 36th with their brothers-in-arms of the 16th (Irish) Division alongside them, drove the enemy from their well ensconced positions at Whytchaete.
 
#13
Current state of play:

Newfoundland Regiment - 801 souls. 500 Dead - only 68 uninjured.

Advance a complete failure north of the Albert - Bapaume road.

Tyneside Irish Brigade wiped out.

By the end of today the British will have lost 57470 of whom 19240 will be dead. The Professional BEF will have ended and from this point on it will be a citizen army.

I cannot conceive of the magnificent courage shown by these men who continued to fight on until the 18th of November.

They may be gone but we should never forget the sacrifice of the Old Contemptibles.
Since having been to the Commonwealth War Graves in northern France as a kid ,1970's,i have always rememberd this terrible day .Later 2008 seeing the grave of a 10th Hussar killed in 1918 really brought it home(Ex RH). to me.
 
#14
"I am not an Ulsterman but yesterday, the 1st. July, as I followed their amazing attack, I felt that I would rather be an Ulsterman than anything else in the world." (Captain Wilfred Spender, 2nd July 1916).

13 British Divisions attacked that day, 9 Victoria Crosses were awarded, 4 of them went to the 36th Ulster Division.

Rest in peace.
 
#16
The sheer bald numbers horrify me, my Mrs cries her eyes out whenever she see,s any of those old newsreels about WW1, 6 of my grandad and 5 of his brothers and cousins went over to France, he was woulded and invalided, the others?, well I,ve got their printed memorials Killed or died of wounds, horrible, truly horrible such a God awfull waste and for what, to come home to a "Land fit for Heroes to live in"?.
 
#17
There are two related threads on this topic on "military history" .

There is another commeorative thread in the same vein. I can understand why ARRSE members feel the urge to commemorate important dates in our military history. However, on the same forum there is a disucssion about how and why Alan Clark got away with "Lions led by Donkeys".

I'll make some provocative statements:-

1 July 1916 was the opening of the largest and most costly battle in British history, but one which destroyed the pre war German army and forced the Germans to make their first withdrawal from occupied territory, after sacking the chief of the General staff. The Germans stopped attacking Verdun. It was a victory in attritional terms.

The opening day had mixed results. Losses were heavy, particularly in the Northern half of the battlefield where the Germans had anticipated the attack to fall. In the Southern half of the battlefield, the attack created a breach five miles wide in the German defences and a crisis in the German command.

Many of the highest casualties were suffered by the raw and under trained men of Kitchener's Army and their inexperienced officers. The Newfoundland Regiment suffered particularly heavily through the decision of the Commanding Officer to bring his troops forwards "over the top" rather than wait for the congestion in the communications trenches to clear. The result of his zeal was the destruction of his battalion before it reached the allied front line. One comp[any commander of 7th Yorkshire chose to make a lone attack at 07.30 against Fricourt instead of 14.00 when the battalion had been ordered to attack. The 10th Bn Yorkshire Regiment suffered particularly heavy casualties because they did not mop up the German defenders in the front line trenches. Arguably, these were the inevitable result of inexperience. The French said that it cost 10k casualties to train a Divisional Commander. On 1 July a lot of British Commanders were too inexperienced to know when to disobey an impossible order.

The claims that the Western Front was an uin-necessary waste of life were started in the Great War by politicians seeking a way to find a cheap and loss free victory. Churchill led us to the Dardanelles and Lloyd George was all for the Italians, Russians and Romanians to do the fighting. Laudable ideas, but unfortunately none of these ideas was going to beat the German army in the field nor liberate Belgium and France, the countries that we went to war to help. The C20th has shown that there are no easy victories over the Germans.

I agree that the returning soldiers were let down as the politicians could not deliver a "Land Fit for Heroes". This is why they and their sons voited for the welfare state in 1945. The same welfare state that we are happy to see eroded for fear that its is being exploited by the "undeserving poor".

If we just remember the Great War as a series of cliches about disasters caused by cock-up or conspiracy theory by our politicians, we can't see this war in context. ARRSE members should have a passing interest in the British Army. This was the biggest war Britain ever fought. There is a lot to be proud of, even on the Somme. There are also lessons that still apply about understanding the implications of going to war, particularly how to end one that doesn't seem to be going anywhere.
 
#18
Whoever the moderators are, ya reckon you want to merge the two (2) threads as per Pteranadons thoughts. I was wondering why as well.....talk about stating the bledin obvious.
 
#19
The reason there was success in the South is due to the French. It was the Divisional Boundary and the French were able to pound the German dugouts with much heavier arty causing greater damage and of course casualties. Our arty was not nearly as successful. The Germans hid below ground with their weapons then re emerged once the bombardment stopped quickly setting up their heavy machine guns. I of course defer to other more learned opinions on this battle but this was how it was described to me on a Battlefield tour around the Somme some years ago.

What brought it home to me was walking through Tyne Cot cemetery seeing the rows upon rows of headstones one can only imagine how bad these lads had it. Of course Tyne Cot holds the heroes of the Ypres salient and another battle but should be a required visit to any British Military types passing through Belgium.

Cemetery - Google Maps

Is the Overhead view. You can just about see the scale of the size of it. Tyne Cot of course remains the largest Commonwealth cemetery for British was dead.
 
#20
It's worth considering the casualties in their historical context:

100 years earlier at Waterloo the Alliance sustained 24,000 casualties in a day. The French lost twice that number.

A quarter century later in WW2 the Allies lost men at a faster rate (Western Europe 1944 -45) than they did in WW1.

If the Warsaw Pact had attacked West Germany in 1980 casualty figures would have been truly horrific.

It's a simple fact that if two reasonably capable (and stubbornly determined) armies clash in the field, casualty rates will be high. WW1 was no exception and is in no way a special case. Public perception of the conflict, and popular reaction to it, has been skewed by a handful of sensitive war poets and 'historians' with an agenda. The 'horrors' of WW1 have become a rallying point for the emotionally inadequate, generally ignorant and those driven class resentments.
 

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