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The Somme

A tribute to mark the 100th anniversary

of the first day of the battle of The Somme, 1st July 1916

My Great Uncle sailed to France

As many Great Uncles did.

Along with many fathers



Sons and husbands.

To war

Across The Channel.

It was fun to start with:

A great adventure.

An outling.

A picnic.

I know because I have his pocket book.

He wrote it up each day

From when he left England

To a sudden stop.

When he died.

Along with many others.

In battles across northern France they fell.

The cream of our youth.

Battles honoured

In the telling

Of some obscure village name.

But the worst of all to English ears

Was The Somme.

The Somme.

With greatest casualties

Suffered by our army

On a single day.


Start of battle first July.

Crack of dawn.

It was "Line up boys and over we go".

After the artillery was supposed to clear the way.

Some commanders knew

The nature

Of the war they fought.

But they were over-ruled.

"Listen to what I am saying, young man"

Haig told a subordinate.

"I am giving you the benefit

Of my experience".

But his experience was irrelevant

And the subordinates listened too much.

Far too much.

And many died.

Far too many.

Over the top -

A hail of bullets.

Through our wire -

A hail of bullets.

No-man's land

At walking pace -

Another hail

Of bullets.

Closer now but fewer left -

Another hail of bullets.

Not so many now to face them -

But yet another

Hail of bullets.

Bodies left just where they fell.

But many less are walking now.


Yet another hail

Of bullets.

Most of them they died

That day.




Or gassed.

19,000 in a single day.

Nine.  Teen.  Thousand.





One single day

That didn't always even get

A single yard

Of muddy soil.

That battle lasted to November.

Carnage upon carnage.

Day after day.

But it started

On Saturday

The first of July

Nineteen sixteen.

When 19,000 men died.

At The Somme.