This is not a place of budding poppies or neat white crosses….. There is nothing to inspire or evoke greatness, only acrid, oily smoke filling the air and stinging the eyes. The cachophony of heavy guns is so deafening it is impossible to think. You advance, the straps of your backpack, biting into your shoulderblades, step by step, rifle in hand, you advance, through a hail of machine gun fire, to Montauban, an impossible objective. Then silence. You crumble and fall. You are dead.
Those who live lay in the mud, with the stink of your stale blood, and rotting flesh. The stench of cordite is your sacramental incense. They lay with bodies torn apart for hours, sometimes days, slowly dying. They suffer for each breath you and I take for granted. All they want is to see loved ones a last, final time……
This is the reality of war, at 6 am, 90 years ago, the week long bombardment of the German lines ceased. At 7.30 Whistles were blown and in near silence thousands of men began to advance on the enemies front lines…..for James Harold Boardman, age 25,a private in the Manchester Regiment, it was a stroll to oblivion.
HE WAS ONE OF 20,000 BRITISH SOLDIERS WHO DIED THAT DAY…………..R.I.P.