Last Friday, July 1, marked the 100th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme in WWI. The Battle of the Somme, also known as the Somme Offensive, was several months long. It began with 18 (!) French and British divisions going “over the top” and was the largest battle of the First World War. Over a million casualties were suffered; 60,000 of them were British on that first Saturday alone.
“…a series of extended lines of British infantry were seen moving forward from the British trenches. The first line appeared to continue with end to right and left. It was quickly followed by a second line, then a third and a fourth…
“…Red rockets sped up into the blue sky as a signal to the artillery, and immediately afterwards a mass of shells from the German batteries in the rear tore through the air and burst among the advancing lines. Whole sections seemed to fall, and the rear formations, moving in closer order, quickly scattered. The advance rapidly crumbled under this hail of shells and bullets. All along the line men could be seen throwing their arms into the air and collapsing, never to move again. Badly wound rolled about in their agony, and others less severely injured crawled to the nearest shell-hole for shelter.
The British soldier, however, has no lack of courage, and once his hand is set to the plough he is not easily turned from his purpose. The extended lines, though badly shaken and with many gaps, now came on all the faster. ” Matthäus Gerster, Reserve-Infanterie-Regiment Nr. 119
Today is July 4, the 100th anniversary of the death of the American poet Alan Seeger (author of ‘I have a rendezvous with death‘) one of many thousands of Americans who volunteered to fight on behalf of the French long before the United States entered the war. The Somme Offensive was unlike anything the world had seen before — 19th century tactics employed in the face of 20th century weaponry, resulting in the worst casualty rates in the history of warfare. One of the results of this battle — the first ever deployment of tanks (also something never before seen) to the battlefield, though that did not actually happen until September.
That makes 2016 the centenary of the tank.
Read the Remainder at Breach Bang Clear