21 June 2015

The Somme

July 1st will be the 99th anniversary of the start of the Battle of the Somme.

The battle on the Somme started with a week long artillery bombardment of the German lines.

Over 1,738,000 shells were fired at the German lines. The logic behind this was so that the artillery guns would destroy the German trenches and barbed wire placed in front of the trenches.

In fact, the Germans had deep dugouts for their men and all they had to do when the bombardment started was to move these men into the relative safety of these deep dugouts.

When the bombardment stopped, the Germans would have known that this would have been the signal for an infantry advance. They moved from the safety of their dugouts and manned their machine guns to face the British and French.

The British soldiers advanced across a 25-mile front.

By the end of the battle, in November 1916, the British had lost 420,000 men, the French lost nearly 200,000 men and the Germans around 500,000.

The Allied forces had advanced along a thirty-mile strip that was seven miles deep at its maximum.

- My interest has always been fuelled because on July 16th 1916 my Grandfather's cousin William Devall was killed fighting with the 7th Battalion of the Kings Own Shropshire Light Infantry.

With 33 officers and 905 men, they had set off from Poperinge on the first, firstly by train to St Omer and then marched to Carnoy, six miles east of Albert, arriving July 7th.

They were to assault Bazentin-le-Grande, or rather the enemy lines passing through that village.

As with the first day there was a barrage that failed to damage the wire and the first wave of men were mown down like wheat by the German machine gunners.

The surviving 6 officers and 135 men held off five counter attacks until they were relieved on July 20th.

What a terrible price paid for such a little gain.

William has a known burial place but the walls of the monument at Thiepval has the names of more than 72000 men that have no known grave. We visited this monument last year on the first Somme weekend.

Read more: Thiepval Monument

This year there are seven of us on the tour. Once again we have to hope for good weather.


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