This Day 1916.

Discussion in 'Current Affairs, News and Analysis' started by MrShanklysboots, Jul 1, 2011.

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  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. 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. 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.
  6. ancienturion

    ancienturion LE Book Reviewer

    From just one side of our family, of these five only one came home.
  7. 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?
  8. Good Lord ancient; that photo certainly brought home your family history and that of the war.
  9. 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.
  10. My paternal grandfather served in the Cameronians during the Great War, I can only marvel at the courage of those who spent 4 years in the trenches.
  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.
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  12. 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.
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  13. 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.
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  15. Walking the fields at Beaumont Hamel really hit me, being a Scots Canadian, Graveyards full of both countrymen and clansmen.