Skip to comments.Brits remember 1916 Battle of Somme - 90 years ago
Posted on 06/30/2006 8:59:43 PM PDT by NormsRevenge
LONDON - A crude wooden sign carries an uneven scrawled epitaph: "He died as he lived. Brave and fearless, a true British hero."
In 1916, British soldiers erected the simple tribute to a singular British hero in the French town of Becordel-Becourt to mark the grave of artillery officer Alan Lloyd, one of 125,000 soldiers from Britain and the Commonwealth killed during one of the most vicious conflicts of World War I.
British war veterans were gathering near that memorial for the 90th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme on Saturday.
The Battle of the Somme raged across northern France from July 1, 1916. By its close on Nov. 18, tens of thousands were killed in a fight that marked a gruesome chapter in trench warfare. On July 1 alone, more than 20,000 British soldiers were killed and up to 40,000 were wounded, making it the bloodiest day in the history of the British army, which intended to end 18 months of deadlock with a decisive Allied victory over German forces.
"The Somme marks a turning point, not just in the war, but in the whole of British history," said Nigel Steel, a historian at London's Imperial War Museum. Until the battle, he said, Britons believed they could beat the Germans easily.
"It was one of those moments when the collective psyche of Britain changed."
Ninety years on, the battle remains a scar in the British memory, particularly in parts of northern England where many of the battalions of Britain's raw new volunteer army were recruited.
"The shock Britain experienced then is something like the United States felt after Sept. 11," Steel said. "And the loss of those young men is still felt in communities today."
The First World War Veteran's Association says only five British veterans of World War I survive. Each year, there have been a few less.
Killed by a German shell on Aug. 4, 1916 on Longueval Ridge, artillery officer Lloyd who left a newly pregnant wife now has a simple white headstone in Becordel-Becourt, one of thousands that dot northern France and are kept pristine by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.
"Few veterans are here to tell us their stories, yet history talks to us from the ranks of headstones and the long lists of the names of the missing," said commission vice chairman, Sir Peter Squire.
Prince Charles and his wife, Camilla, will attend ceremonies at Thiepval Memorial in France, one of the largest memorials to Britain's war dead and the site of 600 British and French graves.
On the Net:
Imperial War Museum: http://www.iwm.org.uk
British First World War veteran Henry Allingham, 110, sits next to a replica WWI fighter plane at Abbeville aerodrome, France, June 30, 2006. Allingham, who served as a ground crewman on the Somme battlefront with the Royal Naval Air Service, is in France for the events taking place to mark the 90th anniversary of the battle of the Somme. EDITORIAL USE ONLY REUTERS/Cpl Rob Knight/DMOC/Crown Copyright/Handout
>> On July 1 alone [the first day of the battle], more than 20,000 British soldiers were killed and up to 40,000 were wounded
Part of the problem: The Germans has a machinegun the 08/15 Maxim. The British had guns, not howitzers, and could not fire effectively against anything but the very most exposed German lines.
The British launched the attack to take pressure off the French at Verdun. That worked when they shelled the area for about two weeks. Alas, it was about the only thing that did work. Aside from the "nul ack funfsten" which worked terrifingly well.
Sir Douglas Haig changed the units battlefield reports to hide his complicity. He blamed his boss for it, and managed to move up.
Well, of course, it was an American invention :-)
My grandfather was there as member of the North Irish Horse. By then they were reduced to a leg outfit.
Compare that with the liberal American news media wailing about the "milestone" that 2,500 Americans have died in the entire Iraq War (including non-combat casualties).
During World War One, the population of Great Britain was approximately 45 million. That would put Britain's equivalent casualties on 1 July 1916, in comparison to the U.S.A. of the year 2006, at over 130,000 British troops killed in a single day.
Great Britain, however, achieved victory in World War One while it is still uncertain whether the American liberal news media will undermine the morale of the American Home Front before final victory is achieved in Iraq.
Today's American liberal news media is truly one of the most potent force multipliers that America's enemies have ever had.
How many American WWI vets are still alive?
I am distressed at the thought of the last vet passing on to the great beyond.
"Don't be too proud of this technological terror. The power of this battlestation fades into insignificance when compared to the power of "The Force".
A series of German Movies developed from the "Revolt of Gunner Asch" books (Hans Helmut Kirst) used the title 08/15, which was famous for spitting out "15 sets of 8 round bursts, with jams after each burst".
08/15 is rather like "FUBAR" in German.
There was a reason why the Germans went with the MG34 and MG42. And why the US used the Browning M-1918 and M-1919, and why the Brits used the Bren.
The Jehovahs witnesses have been pushing that the second coming will occure before all those present in 1916 have died.
Of course, after that happens, they will reinterpret the prophesy, just as the Xians reinterpreted Daniel after the Macabees were overthrown.
World War I is an important milestone in history. It marks the end of Western Civilization.
Thank you for that interesting bit of history (new to me). "FUBAR" per se is another American invention, though what it stands for is certainly standard issue in every military in all eras. SNAFU, TARFU, FUBAR.
I vaguely remember "The Revolt of Gunner Asch" but did not read it. Plenty of used copies around. Would you recommend it?
Wonderful book. Kirst ended WWII as a lieutenant, and realized that he didn't know how to do anything useful, except judge character.
Perhaps you have seen "Night of the Generals" another book by him that made it into the movies. Peter O Toole had a great performance, and about 20 really great character actors filled out a magnificant interplay of characters, treachery, morality, integrity, and conflicting values that made it a great movie. Omar Shariff played Major Grau.
A powerful scene is with the art work of Vincent Van Gogh.
Here's a Wiki link that lists 69 surviving WWI vets.
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