The 1st July 1916 was a bright summer’s day in Picardy, N. France. At 7.30am the sun was well up. Suddenly whistles sounded. Soldiers rose from the trenches and the Battle of the Somme began.
Sergeant R H Tawney serving with the 22nd Battalion, the Manchester Regiment near Fricourt in the Somme department of Picardy recalled that: We lay down, waiting for the line to form up on each side of us. When it was ready we went forward, not doubling, but at a walk, for we had 900 yards of rough ground to the trench that was our first objective.
By the end of the day 19,240 British soldiers had been killed and nearly twice that number wounded. The casualty figure (killed and injured) was an overwhelming 57,740 and is the highest number of casualties suffered by the British Army in a single day.
1 July 1916 is rightly referred to as the worst day in British military history, but the battle was to rage for another 140 days. For most Britons the Battle of the Somme defines what is meant by the ‘tragedy’ ‘waste’ and ‘futility’ of the First World War.
We will remember. We must remember.
Arthur Frederick Hammond, Ralph Nesbit Lodge, Albert Meller, Leonard Norton, Thomas Edgar Stevenson and Harold Bown Warhurst, commemorated on the War Memorial in the Anson Chapel at St Chrysostom’s, all died on July 1st 1916 in the Battle of the Somme.
We will remember them. We must remember them.
On Friday July 1st 2016, at 10.30am, at St Chrysostom’s on the one hundredth anniversary of the Battle of the Somme people of our area, young and old, will gather to commemorate those who died, remember the futility of war and fighting, and pray for peace.