JULY 1st 1916
They came from towns and villages from Astbury to Zennor. Amiens to Z…. They came from the farms, offices, factories and public schools. Pals from Manchester. Scousers, Brummies, Scots,Geordies,Taffies & Frenchies. They came from towns and villages often so small no one has ever heard of them. They left behind, mothers, fathers, wives, sweethearts, siblings and children. They left behind their country. It wasn’t for adventure or glory that they came, though some hoped for it. They came because their way of life was threatened.
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, 91 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. No cross marks his grave – just a name on a slab of marble at Thiepval.
HE WAS ONE OF 20,000 BRITISH SOLDIERS WHO DIED THAT DAY…………..
The Thiepval Memorial, the Memorial to the Missing of the Somme, bears the names of more than 72,000 officers and men of the United Kingdom and South African forces who died in the Somme sector before 20 March 1918 and have no known grave. Over 90% of those commemorated died between July and November 1916. The memorial also serves as an Anglo-French Battle Memorial in recognition of the joint nature of the 1916 offensive and a small cemetery containing equal numbers of Commonwealth and French graves lies at the foot of the memorial. The memorial, designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens, was built between 1928 and 1932 and unveiled by the Prince of Wales, in the presence of the President of France, on 31 July 1932.