Welcome to my blog, where I take pleasure in words and pictures, be they my own or those of others. I'm a creative individual, and the crafty side I explore on my 'other blog', Picking Up The Threads, which I hope you'll visit too. I'm sure you understand that I have sole copyright of my original work and any of my contributions, so please ask if you want to use them. A polite request is rarely refused. So, as they used to say on the BBC's 'Listen With Mother' radio programme, many years ago: "Are you sitting comfortably? Then we'll begin."

Thursday, 30 June 2016

The Somme Day One

Tomorrow marks one hundred years since the beginning of the great Somme offensive, which was to claim so many lives. My own great uncle lost his life there in September 1916, and I wrote about this in Dulce et Decorum Est. Here, I am simply going to choose a few words and images, provided by others, and let them speak for themselves, as a memorial to the many who died. The First Day of the Somme was the opening day of the Battle of Albert.


This image was captioned, ‘British trench near the Albert-Bapaume road at Ovillers-la-Boisselle, July 1916, during the Battle of the Somme’. It shows a German trench, occupied by British soldiers of A Company, 11th Battalion, The Cheshire Regiment.

From Albert to Bapaume

Lonely and bare and desolate,
Stretches of muddy filtered green,
A silence half articulate
Of all that those dumb eyes have seen.

A battered trench, a tree with boughs
Smutted and black with smoke and fire,
A solitary ruined house,
A crumpled mass of rusty wire.

And scarlet by each ragged fen
Long scattered ranks of poppies lay,
As though the blood of the dead men
Had not been wholly washed away.

Alec Waugh 



The image, by Richard Carline depicts the devastation by 1918, of a section of the Albert-Bapaume Road, and the surrounding landscape. A convoy of military vehicles drive along the bomb-damaged road, beside which are a few bell-tents. In the foreground is a grave, marked by a white wooden cross.

A time will certainly come in these rich vales
When a ploughman slicing open the soil
Will crunch through rusting spears, or strike
A headless iron helmet with his spade,
Or stare, wordless, at the harvest of raw bones
He exhumes from the earth’s unmarked grave.

(An extract from ‘Still', a new poem by Simon Armitage

A contribution to Sepia Saturday.

10 comments:

  1. A beautiful written poignant post. I too lost my great uncle George Danson on the Somme on September 16th 1916. Although only of slight build, he was a stretcher bearer and so would be in the midst of so much carnage. He was buried in the Guards Cemetery, near Albert. By coincidence my husband's great uncle Frederick Donaldson died the very same day, remembered on the Thiepval Memorial. But perhaps it was not a great coincidence, when you realise the scale of the loss of life. Thank you for reminding us.

    ReplyDelete
  2. What a poignant reminder of a dark day in history.

    Dee
    Shakin' the Family Tree
    dee-burris.dreamwidth.org

    ReplyDelete
  3. Until the human race can finally figure out how to stop it, war will always exist somewhere in the world. WILL we ever learn? All we seem to do is repeat every mistake humankind has ever made about that since the time of "Adam" & "Eve". So it seems doubtful, and yet I still have hope . . .

    ReplyDelete
  4. Very moving. My father, aged 18, was at the Battle of Arras some time later. He was one of the lucky ones, wounded in the eye within the first hours and taken off the field, so he lived, but never forgot that war for a single day. He went on to become a lawyer working for Veterans Affairs. The legion was his second home. Thanks for the memorable post and that Armitage poem.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Memorable indeed, as are those fields of poppies referred to in Waugh's poem. So many lives lost on July 1, 1916 and so many more to follow.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Watching some history channels on trench warfare was eye-opening. The troops must have hated it; the noise, the dirt, the close quarters, the not being able to see anything but what's in front of you, the stress. A very moving post.

    ReplyDelete
  7. It is impossible, mercifully, to imagine how those men experienced that terrible battle, living among the corpses of friends. I imagine that it would have been the noise that would have quite literally done your head in...no wonder there was so much PTSD and total breakdowns. I especially liked the extract from Still.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Thank you for another touching memorial to this tragic war. A few days ago I listened to a BBC World Service report on tourists who travel to France in order to walk the entire distance of the front line. For me the tragedy of July 1, 1916 is that it was repeated in 1918 with even more horrific casualties. Unfortunately the world seems unable to learn from history, and still tilts toward disunity and senseless quarrels.

    ReplyDelete
  9. A sad post - really it's almost unimaginable. Though in fact the BBC had a wonderful series going out at 1.45 each day last week on Radio 4 which I listened to with great interest. It was made up of well edited clips from interviews with people who had fought at the Somme, recorded in the 1960s or thereabouts. Wonderful, so vivid and realistic. And, of course, very upsetting.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Moving - of course; how could it be otherwise? I have visited the Western Front three times now, I think partly because of some hideous fascination with the enormity of it all, that concentration of human endeavour (that could have been doing so much else), and trying to understand. The people are so close to us. Lovely post.

    ReplyDelete