Honouring hundreds of thousands of victims of the brutal Somme battle

British infantry from the Wiltshire Regiment attacking near Thiepval, 7 August 1916, during the Battle of the Somme.

Today, July 1 of the year 2016, 15 minutes later than planned a moving Commemorative Event for the Battle of the Somme started at Thiepval a commune in the Somme department in Picardie in northern France.

Once more Europe can see why the European Union is so important and how we all should join hands to avoid such terrible disaster Europe had to face 100 years ago.

Even so many years later I could not keep my tears away hearing several letters read by family members and beautiful texts and songs being presented by the professionals of the world of arts. Though Celtic songs got me goose pimples, this event is a necessary witness of the unity there was and still has to be. Too many lives were lost in the disaster that cut in the silk sheets of Europe.

Prince Harry, the Duchess of Cambridge and the Duke of Cambridge bow their heads in Thiepval

Prince Harry, the Duchess of Cambridge and the Duke of Cambridge bow their heads in Thiepval Credit: Chris Radburn/PA

Organised by the Ministry for Culture, Media and Sport on behalf of the British Government, the Mission du Centenaire on behalf of the French Government, The Royal British Legion and the Commonwealth War Graves Commission the Duchess of Cambridge, Prince Harry, Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall attended the service at Thiepval Memorial in France with Prime Minister David Cameron and French President Francois Hollande, other leaders and many people to honour the hundreds of thousands of victims of the brutal offensive, which started in northern France on July 1, 1916.

Great Britain was present with the royal party who met 24 of the 600 UK, Irish and French schoolchildren taking part in the commemorations and an Anglo-French educational programme organised by the British Council, which includes a week-long residential stay in the region.

As she toured a new museum dedicated to those lost in the bloody battle, to those youngsters the Duchess told her visit to the Somme to be “emotional”.

Prince Harry told students from St Paul’s Community College in Waterford, Ireland, and Wolsingham School in County Durham:

“It’s important that you are here. There are all sorts of parts of history that are being forgotten.

Such commemorations are good to remember people and it is necessary for the youngsters to come in contact with the history of our nations.

“It’s important for us to remember older history as well as more recent history. I’m actually quite jealous of you guys getting to spend five days here learning all about it.

the prince said. Such initiative are much better than the school-trips just for fun, going to amusement parks. When I left my eyes going over those youngsters I sincerely had the impression they too were very touched and got involved in this ceremony. I only can hope they will go back to their mother-country with a huge amount of knowledge, like the prince thinks they will do.

Prince Charles let those present know that

“It is truly terrifying to imagine the destruction wrought across this landscape 100 years ago today. However, we now return to the battlefield in a spirit of reconciliation and respect.”

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry during the commemoration of the Centenary of the Battle of the Somme

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry during the commemoration of the Centenary of the Battle of the Somme Credit: Andrew Matthews/PA

The village of Thiepval, which had consisted of a few houses, a chateau and some outlying farms when the Germans first arrived there at the end of September 1914, was finally captured by the British at the end of September 1916. Exactly two years later.

View of Thiepval Memorial from the D73 Pozières-Thiepval road.

View of the east side of the Thiepval Memorial when approaching it from the D73 Pozières-Thiepval road

When you see the peaceful country now you see the huge crater of the new explosive material (I think 22 meters wide and 5 to 7 metres deep) Although the German Front Line and rear positions were damaged by the Allied artillery during this time, and the Germans’ nerves were severely tested by the end of the seven days, the German barbed wire defences were not as badly damaged as had been intended. The allied forces thought this explosion would frighten the Germans and have them flee, but when the English went forwards they were mown down by machine guns.

The preliminary bombardment lasting seven days from 24 June to July the 1st did not have the hoped result for the British, so when they stormed the fields to drive away the enemy the Germans surprised them and brought an incredible amount of victims to thirteen divisions of British forces which launched an offensive on a line from north of Gommecourt to Maricourt at the River Somme. South of the river the attack was made by the French Army.

Speaking about his visit to the top of the memorial, Prince Harry said:

“You get a real perspective of what happened, going over the top. None of us can imagine what that was like.”

That is the worst problem with war, that nobody can really feel what it is and what an impact it makes, when not having been in contact with it. though our governments task is to take care that none of our children their children will have to face such terrible situation.

Thiepval Memorial to the Missing, with French graves of the Anglo-French Cemetery in the foreground.

Thiepval Memorial to the Missing, viewed from the west side, with French graves of the Anglo-French cemetery in the foreground

From letters being read we can imagine the ground over which the British were trying to move north-eastwards which had been churned up by constant artillery bombardments, bodies from previous attacks lay unburied and decomposing. It must have been a nasty smell. From one commander’s letter to his parents we could hear how that man was concerned about his troops and how fear took over on the more quiet moments, having no time to fear on the active battle scene.

We also get to hear how they shivered in the cold, were soaked and saw enough rats and other vermin.

The diary of Major Francis Meynell of the disastrous day in which 19,240 British soldiers were killed and more than 38,000 wounded – the bloodiest day in the history of the British army – was uncovered in Staffordshire’s county archives. Meynell, from Burton-upon-Trent, was stationed at the northern end of the battlefield where the 137th Staffordshire Brigade attacked the German-held village of Gommecourt.

On the day of the attack, Meynell kept a diary of events as they unfolded from his position in a cellar in the nearby village of Foncquevillers.

Meynell wrote his first entry at 6.25am. It simply read “bombardment begins”. By 6.47am, he noted “the drift of shell smoke” obscuring important landmarks. At 4.34pm, after 10 hours of battle, Meynell reported:

“First absolute silence of 20 seconds since 6.50am.”

the major noted

These men appear to have behaved extremely well under great difficulties.

In an address written by Birdsong novelist Sebastian Faulks, Prince William highlighted the almost 60,000 British and Commonwealth casualties of July 1 1916, the bloodiest day in the history of the British Army. He told the assembled guests:

“We lost the flower of a generation; and in the years to come it sometimes seemed that with them a sense of vital optimism had disappeared forever from British life.

It was in many ways the saddest day in the long story of our nation.”

Bangor grammar school in Northern Ireland, twinned with the Lycée Thuillier in Amiens, had their year 10 pupils come together to remember the 37 of its former students who were killed in the conflict, but also to show their respect for those who fought for their country.

Young people holding flowers and wreaths take part in a memorial ceremony at Thiepval.

Young people holding flowers and wreaths take part in a memorial ceremony at Thiepval. Photograph: Stephane de Sakutin/EPA

Nicola Sturgeon called for reflection on the “horrors of the Great War” as she attended the remembrance event at Thiepval. She said:

Barely a single community in Scotland was left untouched by the battle. Across Scotland communities are now remembering those who gave their lives, and a whole century on from the devastation and suffering of the Battle of the Somme, we should all reflect on the horrors of the Great War and give thanks that our continent now lives in peace.

When looking at the present crisis in the European Union we should be aware that only by the regular talks, the will to sit around the table, we have to acknowledge the failures of European governments to prevent the catastrophe of the two world war but also have to see how they managed to have already a period of 70 years that there was no battle going on between countries in these regions. On that point alone the European Union has already shown its use and its necessity.

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Please ignore the animation at the beginning and forward to the France 3 Retransmission at 19:15

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Preceding

1914 – 2014 preparations

100° birthday of war and war tourism

August 4, 1914 to be remembered

Liège 2014 remembering the Great War

Mons 2014 remembering the Great War

2014 Culture

2015 Persons and groups of the year

Continue reading:

Ulster Tower ceremony for the Irish at the Somme battle

Aftermath

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Please find additional information

  1. Thiepval Memorial to the Missing, Somme Battlefields, France
  2. Commemorative Event for the Battle of the Somme – Thiepval Memorial to the Missing – Inscriptions closed
  3. Somme centenary: Duchess of Cambridge speaks of ’emotional’ experience as she attends poignant service after Britain falls silent on battle’s 100-year anniversary
  4. Battle of the Somme centenary commemorations – live
  5. Remembering the heroes of the Battle of the Somme
  6. Photos: Thiepval Memorial marks 100 years since Somme

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Further reading

  1. Europe, war and the imagination
  2. This ‘green and pleasant land’
  3. Call for the Nation to Remember the Somme 100 years on
  4. World War I History: British MG Barrage Fire Tactics
  5. War In European History by Michael Howard
  6. 7/5/1916 Verdun: German progress, but Joffre decides the crisis has passed
  7. 5/6/1916 The Somme turns into a British show
  8. 14/6/1916 The Somme: Haig dreams of a breakthrough
  9. 21/6/1916 Lloyd George feeds the guns
  10. 24/6/1916 The Somme guns start firing
  11. 26/6/1916 British and French guns batter the German Somme defences
  12. June 29, 1916
  13. June 30, 1916
  14. On This Day…
  15. Lest We Forget
  16. The Somme….lest we forget.
  17. 1 July 1916 – Somme
  18. The Somme: they went over the top one hundred years ago this morning
  19. 1 July 1916: The Battle of the Somme
  20. 100 Years On
  21. Let us remember … 100 years on
  22. Remembering the Somme 100 years on
  23. 100 Years Ago – The Battle of the Somme
  24. 1/7/1916 Carnage on the Somme
  25. Centenary of the Battle of the Somme — July 1, 2016
  26. Events remembering the Battle of the Somme
  27. Remembering the Battle of the Somme, in its Centenary year.
  28. 100 Battle of the Somme
  29. 100 years on from the start of the Somme: We remember them
  30. Battle of the Somme remembrance service at Camberley War Memorial
  31. A machine war: The technological legacy of the Battle of the Somme
  32. And Are We Learning From History? Honouring A Lost Generation, The Somme July 1916
  33. The Somme
  34. Battle of the Somme 1
  35. Battle of the Somme 2
  36. Battle of the Somme 3
  37. The Battle of the Somme 4
  38. The Battle of the Somme 5
  39. The Battle of the Somme: Gommecourt
  40. First Day of the Somme
  41. Newfoundland and the 100th Anniversary of the Battle of the Somme
  42. With great artistry and touching simplicity – the Battle of the Somme 1
  43. With great artistry and touching simplicity – the Battle of the Somme 2
  44. Tomorrow, and tomorrow and tomorrow: 141 days of horror
  45. Silence
  46. A Last Letter Before The Somme ‘Big Push’
  47. The Battle of the Somme 1 July 1916-1 July 2016– a very personal memoir
  48. The Battle of the Somme 1 July 1916-1 July 2016– a very personal memoir | Enough of this Tomfoolery!
  49. ‘Over the Top’ ~ Battle of the Somme
  50. Remembering the Somme
  51. Remembering the sacrifices on the Somme: Part 1 of 3
  52. Remembering the sacrifices on the Somme: Part 2 of 3
  53. Remembering the sacrifices on the Somme: Part 3 of 3
  54. Rowing Remembers the Somme
  55. Surrey Heath remembers the sacrifice of the Battle of the Somme
  56. Bath and the Battle of the Somme
  57. Remembering Harry, a casualty of the Battle of the Somme
  58. Journey’s End by R.C. Sherriff
  59. Remembering the Fallen
  60. Launch of the Forget Never – The Somme Project
  61. Diary Note 2: Remembering the sacrifices on the Somme
  62. “There were no men left …” Bradford and the Somme
  63. Southern, Albert Edward Rainbow. Died 1st Jul 1916
  64. Scotton, Ernest. Died 1st Jul 1916
  65. Morris-Davies, Cyril Thomas. Died 1st Jul 1916
  66. Jeeves, Claude Alfred. Died 1st Jun 1916
  67. Eadon, George Edmund. Died 1st Jul 1916
  68. Cooper, John. Died 1st Jul 1916
  69. Boyes, Frank Harold. Died 1st Jul 1916
  70. Bland, Charles Henry. Died 1st Jul 1916
  71. Barrett, George Arthur. Died 1st Jul 1916
  72. Remembering Herbert Philip Bonney – 1st July 1916
  73. Joseph Perks
  74. Albert Hill Victoria Cross
  75. Harry Willits – the Darling of Dalymount
  76. Reuben Orr 1899-1916
  77. Uncle Laddie: The Polish Airman and Me
  78. Letters: Life, Love, Death & The Somme
  79. “My darling, au revoir.” – War diaries of Captain Charles May
  80. Battle of Somme: The story of John James Bennett
  81. ‘It’s the end of the 1916 winter and the conditions are almost unbelievable…’
  82. What passing-bells for these who die as cattle?
  83. #WeAreHere
  84. In A Far Distant Land by Bill Storie
  85. Display of Unity
  86. Review: The Great War (Sacco)
  87. Wall to Wall Poppies In Wenlock
  88. 1916: The Battle of the Somme remembered. Victoria Cross recipients.
  89. Discoveries and Battles
  90. How the new Battle of the Somme £5 Coin is set to raise important funds for The Royal British Legion
  91. The Modern Battlefield
  92. World War I Trenches – Diorama
  93. Desperate Glory
  94. “Canada’s Day”: The myth of Vimy Ridge
  95. Holy Week Poetry 2016, Holy Saturday: “In Flanders Fields” by John McCrae
  96. Thiepval
  97. He is Not Missing, He is Here.
  98. Somme 100 Ballot Goes Online
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About Marcus Ampe

Retired dancer, choreographer, choreologist Founder of the Dance impresario office and archive: Danscontact-Dansarchief plus the Association for Bible scholars, the Lifestyle magazines "Stepping Toes" and "From Guestwriters" and creator of the site "Messiah for all". - Gepensioneerd danser, choreograaf, choreoloog. Stichter van Danscontact-Dansarchief plus van de Vereniging voor Bijbelvorsers, de Lifestyle magazines "Stepping Toes" en "From Guestwriters" en maker van de site "Messiah for all".
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11 Responses to Honouring hundreds of thousands of victims of the brutal Somme battle

  1. So true, and even more poignant, as you say, in the wake of the referendum.

    Like

  2. Pingback: Ulster Tower ceremony for the Irish at the Somme battle | Marcus Ampe's Space

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  4. Phenomenal amount of wonderful information here. Thank you linking to my reviews! Bronte

    Like

  5. churchmouse says:

    Thank you very much for the kind mention, which I greatly appreciate.

    May we always remember the sacrifice and valour of the men who fought for our liberty.

    Liked by 1 person

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