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.