Saturday, July 2, 2016


Ceremonies to mark the beginning of the Battle of the Somme 100 years ago are being held throughout the UK and France.    The carnage of the next five months we unbelievable by any standards.

19,250 British soldiers died on the first day - the bloodiest day in the history of the British Army.   By the end of that day the British had captured only three square miles of territory.   Five months later when the battle ended the British had advanced just seven miles and had failed to break the German defences.   In total there were over a million soldiers killed or wounded on both sides including 420,00 British, about 200,00 from France and an estimated 465,000 from Germany.

The Lochnager Crater is perhaps the most graphic reminder of the scale of the destruction.   It came about from the detonation of 27,000 kg of Ammonal explosive placed in a mine dug under the German lines.   The explosion was witnessed from the air by 2Lt Cecil Lewis, RFC, flying a Morane-Saulnier fighter aircraft.   He reported it flipped his machine sideways with the earth column rising to almost 4,000 ft.    It wiped out most of the men from the 5th Company, Reserve Infantry Regiment 110, in the adjacent trenches.   The Crater is 67m in diameter (exluding the lip) and 140m across. It is preserved as a permanent war memorial.

We should remember the saying that 'Jaw Jaw is always better than War War'
Winston Churchill (White House, 26 June 1954)  but sometimes wars are inevitable.   Doesn't necessarily make them right (or wrong) but it is right that we remember the sacrifices made.    Least we forget.


Adolf Fiinkensein said...

Sorry Vet but I'm confused.

"The Crater is 67m in diameter (exluding the lip) and 140m across."

Should that be 67m deep?

The Veteran said...

Adof ... suspect you're right. Copied from


Adolf Fiinkensein said...

Thanks. I looked it up and there it was. Must admit I had to think twice to make sure I had not mixed up my radius with my diameter.

Anonymous said...

The centenary has aroused the interest of the young is France as it is the battle that France forgot. President Hollande was the first French head of state to visit Thiepval since 1932.

Verdun overshadowed the Somme and it gradually drifted from French memory but by the end it had cost 200,000 French casualties. In 1916 the French were far more experienced at the "new" warfare than the British and by limiting their ambitions and "pepperpotting" instead of walking behind a rolling barrage took most of their objectives.

As the British failed to reach their objectives the French flank was hanging in the air with the usual consequences, withdrawal and stalemate.

The fact that the Germans were not expecting a French attack and had put their best in front of the British went some way to explaining the quick French success.

British and Commonwealth historians tend to write the the French contribution off in few sentences even though at the Somme they held a third of the line.

A French military historian once complained that in British Napoleonic war history the British withdraw or retire and the French retreat. The French have only one word for all three "Retrait".

Lord Egbut Nobacon

Anonymous said...

Its sad that the lessons the French had learned by July 2016 were not taken on board by the English immediately and likewise the lessons the English had learned by 1917 were not taken on board by the Americans who suffered terrible casualties initially because they did their own thing. The same thing was apparent in the next dust up as well - maybe leadership is just rubbish in many cases. Some modern corporates are the same.


Anonymous said...

All attacks foundered because of communication. We so easily forget today that once out of sight there were comms only by land line telephone (100's were killed repairing these lines) or carrier pigeon. Had they had even WW2 radios trench warfare would have not happened.

Lord Egbut

The Realist said...

I understand the Germans had tapped into the British phone lines and knew the whole plan?