Tag Archives: Battle of Somme

Thiepval Memorial – Lest We Forget!

Thiepval Memorial

 

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The Thiepval Memorial to the Missing of the Somme is a war memorial to 72,195 missing British and South African servicemen, who died in the Battles of the Somme of the First World War between 1915 and 1918, with no known grave. It is near the village of Thiepval, Picardy in France. A visitors’ centre opened in 2004.

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Location

The Memorial was built approximately 200 metres (220 yd) to the south-east of the former Thiepval Château, which was located on lower ground, by the side of Thiepval Wood. The grounds of the original château were not chosen as this would have required the moving of graves, dug during the war around the numerous medical aid stations.

Design and inauguration

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Designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens, the memorial was built between 1928 and 1932 and is the largest Commonwealth Memorial to the Missing in the world. It was inaugurated by the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VIII) in the presence of Albert Lebrun, President of France, on 1 August 1932.

The unveiling ceremony was attended by Lutyens.

The memorial dominates the rural scene and has 16 brick piers, faced with Portland stone. It was originally built using French bricks from Lille, but was refaced in 1973 with Accrington brick.

The main arch is aligned east to west.The memorial is 140 feet (43 m) high, above the level of its podium, which to the west is 20 feet (6.1 m) above the level of the adjoining cemetery. It has foundations 19 feet (5.8 m) thick, which were required because of extensive wartime tunnelling beneath the structure.

It is a complex form of memorial arch, comprising interlocking arches of four sizes. Each side of the main arch is pierced by a smaller arch, orientated at a right angle to the main arch. Each side of each of these smaller arches is then pierced by a still smaller arch and so on.  The keystone of each smaller arch is at the level of the spring of the larger arch that it pierces; each of these levels is marked by a stone cornice.

This design results in 16 piers, having 64 stone-panelled sides. Only 48 of these are inscribed, as the panels around the outside of the memorial are blank.

More succinctly, according to the architectural historian Stephen Games, the memorial is composed of two intersecting triumphal arches, each with a larger central arch and two smaller subsidiary arches, the arches on the east-west facades being taller than those on the north-south, and all raised up from what is loosely a square four-by-four tartan grid plan. The main arch is surmounted by a tower. In the central space of the memorial a Stone of Remembrance rests on a three-stepped platform.

The memorial represents the names of over 72,000 officers and men (see below), and Lutyens’s ingenious geometry arises out of the attempt to display these names in compact form, rather than in the more usual linear form seen in the very long and much lower memorials to other vast First World War battles such as Loos, Pozières and Étaples.

Inscriptions

The inscription of names on the memorial is reserved for those missing, or unidentified, soldiers who have no known grave. A large inscription on an internal surface of the memorial reads:

Here are recorded

names of officers and men of the British Armies who fell on the Somme battlefields July 1915 February 1918 but to whom the fortune of war denied the known and honoured burial given to their

comrades in death.

On the Portland stone piers are engraved the names of over 72,000 men who were lost in the Somme battles between July 1915 and March 1918. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission states that over 90% of these soldiers died in the first Battle of the Somme between 1 July and 18 November 1916. The names are carved using the standard upper-case lettering designed for the Commission by MacDonald Gill.

Over the years since its inauguration, bodies have been regularly discovered on the former battlefield and are sometimes identified through various means. The decision was taken that to protect the integrity of the memorial as one solely for those who are missing or unidentified, that if a body were found and identified the inscription of their name would be removed from the memorial by filling in the inscription with cement. For those who are found and identified, they are given a funeral with full military honours at a cemetery close to the location at which they were discovered. This practice has resulted in numerous gaps in the lists of names.

On the top of the archway, a French inscription reads: Aux armées Française et Britannique l’Empire Britannique reconnaissant (To the French and British Armies, from the grateful British Empire). Just below this, are carved the years 1914 and 1918. On the upper edges of the side archways, split across left and right, is carved the phrase:

“The Missing … of the Somme”.

Also included on this memorial are sixteen stone laurel wreaths, inscribed with the names of sub-battles that made up the Battle of the Somme in which the men commemorated at Thiepval fell. The battles so-named are Ancre Heights, Ancre, Albert, High Wood, Delville Wood, Morval, Flers–Courcelette, Pozières Wood, Bazentin Ridge, Thiepval Ridge, Transloy Ridges, Ginchy, Guillemont,

Notable commemoratees

Seven Victoria Cross recipients are listed on the memorial, under their respective regiments.

All British unless otherwise noted:

Also commemorated are:

Anglo-French memorial

Cross of Sacrifice and British (left) and French (right) graves by the memorial

The Thiepval Memorial also serves as an Anglo-French battle memorial to commemorate the joint nature of the 1916 offensive. In further recognition of this, a cemetery, Thiepval Anglo-Frenchy Cemetery, containing 300 British Commonwealth and 300 French graves lies at the foot of the memorial. Most of the soldiers buried here – 239 of the British Commonwealth and 253 of the French – are unknown, the bodies having been reburied here after discovery between December 1931 and March 1932, mostly from the Somme battlefields but some from as far north as Loos and as far south as Le Quesnel.

The British Commonwealth graves have rectangular headstones made of white stone, while the French graves have grey stone crosses. On the British headstones is the inscription “A Soldier of the Great War/ Known unto God”. The French crosses bear the single word “Inconnu” (‘unknown’). The cemetery’s Cross of Sacrifice bears an inscription that acknowledges the joint British and French contributions:

That the world may remember the common sacrifice of two and a half million dead, here have been laid side by side Soldiers of France and of the British Empire in eternal comradeship.
— Thiepval Anglo-French Cemetery Cross of Sacrifice inscription

Ceremonies and services

Each year on 1 July (the anniversary of the first day on the Somme) a major ceremony is held at the memorial.

There is also a ceremony on the 11 November, beginning at 1045 CET.

Battle of the Somme 141 days of Hell

The Battle of the Somme

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Real  Footage & Tribute to those who died

The Battle of the Somme (French: Bataille de la Somme, German: Schlacht an der Somme), also known as the Somme Offensive, was a battle of the First World War fought by the armies of the British and French empires against the German Empire. It took place between 1 July and 18 November 1916 on both sides of upper reaches of the River Somme in France.

It was the largest battle of the First World War on the Western Front; more than one million men were wounded or killed, making it one of the bloodiest battles in human history.

1,000,000 Killed & Wounded

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The French and British had committed themselves to an offensive on the Somme during Allied discussions at Chantilly, Oise, in December 1915. The Allies agreed upon a strategy of combined offensives against the Central Powers in 1916, by the French, Russian, British and Italian armies, with the Somme offensive as the Franco-British contribution. Initial plans called for the French army to undertake the main part of the Somme offensive, supported on the northern flank by the Fourth Army of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF).

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When the Imperial German Army began the Battle of Verdun on the Meuse on 21 February 1916, French commanders diverted many of the divisions intended for the Somme and the “supporting” attack by the British became the principal effort.

 

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The first day on the Somme (1 July) saw a serious defeat for the German Second Army, which was forced out of its first position by the French Sixth Army, from Foucaucourt-en-Santerre south of the Somme to Maricourt on the north bank and by the Fourth Army from Maricourt to the vicinity of the AlbertBapaume road.

 Battle of the Somme 1st July 1916

The first day on the Somme was also the worst day in the history of the British army, which had c. 57,470 casualties, mainly on the front between the Albert–Bapaume road and Gommecourt, where the attack was defeated and few British troops reached the German front line. The British troops on the Somme comprised a mixture of the remains of the pre-war regular army, the Territorial Force and the Kitchener Army, which was composed of Pals battalions, recruited from the same places and occupations.

The battle is notable for the importance of air power and the first use of the tank. At the end of the battle, British and French forces had penetrated 6 miles (9.7 km) into German-occupied territory, taking more ground than in any of their offensives since the Battle of the Marne in 1914.

The Anglo-French armies failed to capture Péronne and halted 3 miles (4.8 km) from Bapaume, where the German armies maintained their positions over the winter. British attacks in the Ancre valley resumed in January 1917 and forced the Germans into local withdrawals to reserve lines in February, before the scheduled retirement to the Siegfriedstellung (Hindenburg Line) began in March. Debate continues over the necessity, significance and effect of the battle.

Battle of the Somme
Map of the Battle of the Somme, 1916.svg
Battle of the Somme 1 July – 18 November 1916
Date 1 July – 18 November 1916
Location Somme River, north-central Somme and south-eastern Pas-de-Calais Départements, France
50°1′N 2°41′E / 50.017°N 2.683°E / 50.017; 2.683Coordinates: 50°1′N 2°41′E / 50.017°N 2.683°E / 50.017; 2.683
Result Inconclusive, see the Aftermath section
Belligerents
 British Empire

France

 German Empire
Commanders and leaders
United Kingdom Douglas Haig
France Ferdinand Foch
United Kingdom Henry Rawlinson
France Émile Fayolle
United Kingdom Hubert Gough
France Joseph Alfred Micheler
German Empire Crown Prince Rupprecht of Bavaria
German Empire Max von Gallwitz
German Empire Fritz von Below
Strength
13 British, 11 French divisions 1 July
51 British, 48 French divisions July–November
10 12 divisions 1 July
50 divisions July–November
Casualties and losses
794,238[1]

British losses 481,842, French losses about 250,000

537,918

German losses 236,194

Battle of the Somme

 

Battle of the Somme Footage (1916). We Salute you all.

Battle of the Somme Footage (1916)

“One death is a tragedy; one million is a statistic”

In my opinion every death is a tragedy

Irish Soldiers in the Battle of the Somme

The Battle of the Somme, whose 90th anniversary we commemorate this year, began on 1 July 1916 in the high expectation of a major victory that would bring the carnage of the First World War to an end. By the time it petered out in the rain and snow of the following November, more than one million soldiers from both sides had died without making any appreciable alteration in the opening position.  Among the dead were over 3,500 Irish soldiers, with many more wounded. This large loss of life was made even more horrendous by its occurrence within the short space of the first day of the Battle and two days in the following September. In particular, the 5,500 casualties of the 36th Ulster Division on 1 July were men drawn almost entirely from one community in the province of Ulster. Nearly 2,000 soldiers from cities, towns, villages and town lands of the North were killed in the first few hours of fighting, an event which seared itself into the folk memory of their community. In a continuation of the same battle, the 16th Irish Division had 4,330 casualties in September, of whom 1,200 were killed. These came mainly from the other three provinces. Added to these were the Irish soldiers who fought in other divisions as part of the regular army or in the newly raised battalions. The total number of Irish casualties cannot be calculated with certainty but they affected every part of the island and continue to have an influence on the evolution of Irish politics.

We salute you all

Battle of the Somme Footage (1916). A Day that Shook the World. The Battle of the Somme began on July 1st, 1916 during World War One. A bloody battle that claimed more than 1 million casualties over a 5 month period. John Humphrys narrates. Includes footage of the battle.

A Day That Shook The World is the classic series that recalls the days of the 20th century that proved to be era-defining and pivotal in the course of modern history.