My Grand-dad at the Battle of the Somme

The Battle of the Somme was one of the largest battles of the First World War, one of the bloodiest military operations ever recorded.

It lasted from the 1st of July 1916 until the 13th of November, 1916.

My Grand-dad, barely 19 and  a volunteer in the East Lancashire Regiment was there as a telephone operator and would have witnessed what the poet, John Masefield, did after a seven-day preliminary bombardment by the British, firing 1.7 million shells and detonating 17 giant mines, the sound of which rattled plates 130 miles away.

Masefield wrote : “The hands of time rested on the half hour mark and along that old front line of the English, there came a whistling and a crying. The men of the first wave climbed up the parapets, in tumult, darkness and the presence of death and, having done with all pleasant things, advanced across No Man’s Land to begin the battle.”

It was in one of those waves that my Grand-dad was injured. All he remembered was his companion falling next to him with his head blown off.

By the end of the first day alone, the British had lost 19,240 dead, 35,493 wounded and there were 2152 “missing” with all the horrors that the word can imply.

By the end of the Battle of the Somme the British had gained about two miles and lost 420,000 soldiers.

It has been estimated that every CENTIMETRE of ground cost two lives.

A German officer, Friedrich Steinbrecher wrote” “SOMME. The whole history of the world cannot contain a more ghastly word.”

My Granddad, Ernest Moore, was a Private in the East Lancashire Regiment and was one of the “lucky” ones to receive a wound serious enough for him to be returned home, more or less intact.

For his services, he was awarded the Silver War Badge with his number engraved on the back which showed that he’d served and been invalided out . I have a copy of his War Records to that effect.

As far as I know he, like so many, never received any further public recognition on any of the Rolls of Honor of the “gallant” survivors .

The locally recruited regiments, often known as “The Pals” suffered massive casualties. Particularly cruel to bear because they came from the same small towns.

The pages of the local newspapers filled with names and photographs of the dead, missing and wounded.

The brother of one of the “Accrington Pals” said: I don’t think there was a street in Accrington and the surrounding district that didn’t have their blinds drawn and the bell at Christ Church used to toll all day.”

It has been written of those local regiments:

THEY WERE TWO YEARS IN THE MAKING AND TEN MINUTES IN THE DESTROYING.

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4 thoughts on “My Grand-dad at the Battle of the Somme

  1. Richard, I have read yur blogg with much interest, I understand how when people find out their family history that once they know of reltives who fought and lost their lives in “the war to stop all war” how suddenly an adrenalin rush of emotions and sudden concern for the lost unknown pwerson involved.

    Yet the men that survived were often in a worse state, to a lot death, as harsh as it might seem, death would of been a blessing. They lived for years decades with the horrors returning to them day after day night after night.

    This was repeated one generation later with the second world war, I too had a living relative in my lifetime who fought in this second tragedy, i watched as a child as my grandfather hid when ever it thundered because he thought it was shellings i listened to stories and heard the screams as he relived those stories at night,yet what has all this loss of life whether actually death or not because those who returned were robbed of their lives, been for?? i am now te mother of a boy of 16 who wants to join the forces i already have 3 cousins in the forces and all i can hear are those screams from childhood those hidden scared moments that haunted my grandfather being revived is it worth it.I personal think not

  2. Readers may also be interested in the writings home from the front of US Sgt. Sam Avery. Fascinating eyewitness history from the hot sands along the Rio Grande to the cold mud along the Meuse.

    This blog is an adventure long in the making for me in honor of my own family hero. Letters are posted on the same day they were written from the trenches 91 years ago.

    Today I found myself staring at my watch counting down the minutes to 1100 hrs. http://worldwar1letters.wordpress.com

  3. Richard, this brought back memories of my grandfather. He spoke of WW I only at the end of his life. He was a young officer in the 17th Lancers. Yes, they had horses. More horses were killed in WW I than soldiers!
    He spent most of the war around Ypres. The line moved back and forth a few hundred yards over four years. He was gassed which changed his life. He lost three brothers, one at Arras, one went down with HMS Irrisistable in the Dardenelles and the other on the first day of the First Battle of the Somme.
    My grandmother lost three brothers AND her father. She was German, she met my grandfather in 1919 when he was in the occupation army on the German/French border.

  4. My grandfather was there too. He was in the Royal Artillery 161st battalion and he was an experienced horseman who looked after the horses. He came out uninjured and one of the few things I remember him saying about it was that he was glad that he never had to go in the trenches. Even though being around the big guns was dangerous- they were obviously what the enemy was trying to destroy- at least they were mobile and in the open. I also remember him saying that there were a group of new lads marching and boasting about what they were going to do to “jerry” and he watched them get blown up before they even got to the front line.
    He remained proud of his war service his whole long life ( it was one of only three times in his 90 years that he ever left Yorkshire) and showed anyone who came into the front room his jug made from a WW1 shell which he brought home and there was a giant photo of him with his battalion which never left the wall.

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