Anniversary of the Battle of the Somme
On this day 105 years ago, one of the bloodiest and most tragic battles in human history began on the banks of the River Somme in Northern France. An integral part of the First World War, the battle was fought by the armies of the British Empire and the Third French Republic against the encroaching German Empire, and lasted for five long months of hitherto unimaginable pain and suffering.
Over three million men fought in the battle; in excess of a million were killed or wounded. Today marks the anniversary of this worst day of fighting in British military history – near sixty thousand casualties and almost twenty thousand men lost their lives on that fated day more than a century ago; and that first day would signal a dark omen for what would be to come. Over the course of the battle, some 650,000 German, 420,000 British and 195,000 French were to be killed or wounded.
The battle has since become a powerful and enduring metaphor for futile and indiscriminate slaughter. The Archbishop of Canterbury, The Most Reverend Justin Welby, noted solemnly in the centennial commemorations: “On this day we remember all those caught up by the Battle on the Somme; those who faced the terrible waste and devastation, those who fought against all the odds, who endured the clinging mud and squalor of the trenches.”
It is in this spirit of remembrance that we today honour those brave soldiers who gave their lives in ultimate sacrifice. The words of Siegfried Sassoon echo through the ages, ‘Have you forgotten yet?’ While the answer remains: no, we shall not. We shall remember them.