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.