Sacrifice on the Western Front

Some dates live on in the American folk memory long after the events themselves are distant history—October 12, 1492; July 4, 1776; December 7, 1941. Few if any of us, however, know the significance of July 1, 1916. But that date, a century gone, is seared into the soul of the British nation. It was the first day of the Battle of the Somme, when 120,000 men of the British army went “over the top” and attacked the German trenches. By day’s end, 19,240 of them were dead, 35,494 were wounded, 2,152 were missing, and 585 were prisoners of war. That’s a total of 57,471 casualties—a staggering 47 percent of the men who left the trenches that day.

  • Frances

    Grandad joined the 62nd Battalion, CEF, on July 30, 2015. The commemorative “print” hangs on our wall today; inserted into the information about my Grandad’s enlistment is a photo of him in uniform saluting, with my father (then about two) standing in front and also saluting. The data is hazy as to whether the 62nd was in the first battle of the Somme, but their losses on the battlefield must have been significant as they were subsequently absorbed into another unit on 6th July, 2016. My later interest in his military career was because – when we were living in Vancouver for some years – the tenant in the downstairs unit next door recognized my father. Or, rather, he took one look at Dad and remembered my Grandad. So I had the rare fortune of meeting a WW I veteran and getting some – very incomplete – sense of what had happened. Some 50 years after WW I, old Denny was very philosophical about his experiences. He had survived (his comment was that he kept being promoted on the battlefield, but demoted when he returned late from leave), returned home, and had a good life.

    So – on the occasion of the First Battle of the Somme, I salute Grandad, Denny, and all the other Canadians who fought and died in WW I..

  • UCSPanther

    Somme, Ypres, Verdun, Gallipolli and Flanders Field. All are names of various battlefields on which much of the history of the 20th century was written.

  • mitchel44

    “July 1 remains an official day of remembrance in Newfoundland and Labrador. Every year, people gather at the National War Memorial in downtown St. John’s and at other locations across the province to remember the soldiers who fought at Beaumont Hamel, as well as the many other men and women who have served in other forces and other wars. ”
    I’ve been in St. John’s, not much Canada Day, lots of Beaumont Hamel.
    Newfoundland remembers.

  • ntt1

    what a colossal waste of human lives, in my family one grandfather had severe parkinson’s exacerbated by shell shock, the other had emphysema from gas and then ” light duties” as shell machinist. breathing sulphurous oil fumes. They still managed to have families thank god but we are only here as a result of extremely brave men who lived with horrible disabilities yet still raised their kids.

  • Norman_In_New_York

    “What passing bells for those who died as cattle?
    Only the monstrous anger of the guns,
    Only the stuttering rifles’ rapid rattle
    Could patter out their hasty orisons.”
    – Wilfred Owen, killed in action one week before the final armistice.

  • Hard Little Machine

    and people still trust their government to do for them what’s right.

  • Jay Harper

    My granddad’s brother, Great uncle William, was killed the battle of the Somme. Granddad and two other brothers survived the war. Granddad lived to 98 and his other two brothers lived to be 100, so William was cheated out of what would probably have been a long life. I’ll be thinking of him on the anniversary of his death.