“When the whistles blew …” Written by Mary Sinclair Powell
At 07.30 hours on July 1st 1916, whistles blew along the front lines, consisting of miles of trenches. 120,000 brave “British Tommies” went “Over the Top”, lead by officers, into a deadly hail of strafing machine gun fire. Many had never seen action and were told to walk towards their targets. This must have been an exhilirating but terrify time.
It was the darkest day in our nation’s military history – with the British Armies suffering a massive 60,000 casualties, many being killed within the first hour. Many were new recruits who had been drafted in to replace the thousands killed in previous battles since 1914. Most were “Pals Brigades” made up of men from estates, villages and neighbourhoods who had vowed to fight alongside each other. Unfortunately most of these brigades were virtually wiped out.
The Battle of the Somme was to last 5 gruelling months until November 18th, the outcome of which was to only gain advantage of 5 miles – despite it being the front’s largest battle in history.
68 Local Men died during the long weeks of battle, 10 of whom died “Going Over The Top” both as leaders of men or “Tommies” obeying orders. At least 8 of the rest were KIA during the First Battle to use Tanks at the Battle of Flers-Courcelette in the September.
Many of those who fell at the Battle of the Somme are Remembered on the Thiepval Memorial as they have no known grave. They were buried where they fell, but despite having markers their graves were obliterated during subsequent military bombardments.
Ross RBL have been Commemorating this major part of WWI history within the town. They will be continuing to do so culminating with the Acts of Remembrance during November.
Armistice Day on November 11th will be at the Market House Ross at 11.00 hours with a two-minute silence and flag raising.
Remembrance Sunday will take place as usual on November 13th, with wreath laying at the Prospect War Memorial from 10.45 hours – followed by a service in St Mary’s Church.
November 18th will be the Centenary Anniversary of the last day of the Somme and the RBL will plan a short event to Remember this historic day. Further details will follow.
In the meantime please think about and Remember the men who died during that horrendous battle and their families who were left behind.