Today, 1 July, is the hundreth anniversary of the beginning of the Battle Of The Somme. It lasted until 18 November, 1916.
On the first day of the battle, the British army alone suffered well over 57,000 casualties.
By the end of the battle, there would be over one million killed or wounded on all sides.
So, what have we learnt?
I wandered up to Beaucourt; I took the river track
And saw the lines we lived in before the Boche went back;
But Peace was now in Pottage, the front was far ahead,
The front had journeyed Eastward, and only left the dead.
And I thought, how long we lay there, and watched across the wire,
While guns roared round the valley, and set the skies afire!
But now there are homes in Hamel and tents in the Vale of Hell,
And a camp at suicide corner, where half a regiment fell.
The new troops follow after, and tread the land we won,
To them 'tis so much hill-side re-wrested from the Hun
We only walk with reverence this sullen mile of mud
The shell-holes hold our history, and half of them our blood.
Here, at the head of Peche Street, 'twas death to show your face,
To me it seemed like magic to linger in the place;
For me how many spirits hung around the Kentish Caves,
But the new men see no spirits-they only see the graves.
I found the half-dug ditches we fashioned for the fight,
We lost a score of men there-young James was killed that night,
I saw the star shells staring, I heard the bullets hail,
But the new troops pass unheeding-they never heard the tale.
I crossed the blood red ribbon, that once was no-man's land,
I saw a misty daybreak and a creeping minute-hand;
And here the lads went over, and there was Harmsworth shot,
And here was William lying-but the new men know them not.
And I said, "There is still the river, and still the stiff, stark trees,
To treasure here our story, but there are only these";
But under the white wood crosses the dead men answered low,
" The new men know not Beaucourt, but we are here-we know."