July 1st 1916 – The Day 20,000 Died For Nothing.

The Somme 1916

Which one is your grandfather?

Today is a day for the British to take stock of just what they’ve done by voting to leave the European Union.

Today is July 1st 2016. By the end of this day, one hundred years ago, 20,000 men of the British Empire would be lying dead in the mud of the Somme. The cause of this vile slaughter was one of the greatest tactical blunders in military history, led by British aristocratic incompetents.

And for what? So the powerful, infighting, families that ruled Europe could slug out their differences from their fancy mansions without so much as a splatter of mud on their expensive gowns and tuxedos.

The Mirror newpaper today:

“We must never forget the bravery of the young men who exactly 100 years ago today heard the whistles that would send so many over the top to an early grave.

‘Slaughter not in vain’

“Many of the men who died did not have the vote and their suffering played a part in obtaining rights and freedoms we should cherish, respecting those who never grew old so that we may be free.”

From the Times:

…the Somme was a slaughter, but it was not in vain, as it allowed Allied commanders to learn how to fight a mechanised war on an unprecedented scale.

It was knowledge that ultimately helped to secure victory.”

20,000 men on the first day; over one million killed or injured in the following five months, and these newspapers dare to state it was not in vain. How can that amount of death and suffering, young men blown to bits, families back home devastated, ever be justified?

They call them “brave”. They weren’t brave, they had no choice. Most of them were so scared they soiled their clothes before ever going into battle. Those who joined up voluntarily were testosterone-fueled, propaganda victims, who considered it a ‘jolly jape’. They soon discovered there was nothing ‘jolly’ about the Somme. Most were conscripted, as has been the case throughout history whenever a British king or queen needed an army to fight for more land to be conquered, more money to top-up their coffers.

The media and politicians are pastmasters at spouting sentimental guff to make us all feel better. They call them ‘heroes’, the ‘saviours of freedom’, but they were just human beings like you or I, who happened to be born at the wrong time, in the wrong place. They certainly died in the wrong place, and at the wrong time, their lives snatched away so, “allied commanders could learn how to fight a mechanised war on an unprecedented scale.” If that was the case why did it take another four years to defeat the German military, and cost another seventeen million lives?

It was the “war to end all wars”. Maybe they wouldn’t have minded dying so much if they knew that had come true. Sadly, it only took twenty years before realization dawned that “the war to end all wars” was just another catchy little propaganda phrase trotted out by the politicians and media of the day to justify something unjustifiable.

It’s still happening today: “Brexit will reclaim our sovereignty.” “Today is Britain’s Independence Day.”

The European Union was a great ideal, formed with the aim of preventing any more European wars. It has succeeded for over fifty years. Perhaps those who this week voted to leave it might first have stopped to consider what it was their grandfathers and great-grandfathers were forced to die for, one hundred years ago today.

3 Replies to “July 1st 1916 – The Day 20,000 Died For Nothing.”

  1. My thoughts exactly RJA as I am endlessly reading about Newfoundland’s Blue Puttees, all young boys, desperate and poverty driven who signed up only to be slaughtered on the 1st day of battle at Beamont Hamel. A whole generation of young men wiped out here. The island is still recovering. What was brave? What was “freedom”?

    I’m sick to death of this pointless, senseless glorification of the “sacrifice”.


  2. One of my first reactions to the idea of Brexit, long before the referendum was held, and before I’d considered my likely reduction in income, was that, should the exit of Britain trigger other exits, leaving Europe fragmented once more, history might well, one day in the not too distant future, be repeated. War after war, skirmish after skirmish. I know the world has moved on, we now have techno-wizadry and the internet, and flippin’ heck – drones 🙁 but human nature hasn’t changed.

    A time travel device would be A Good Thing right now, someone could go back a month or two, and gag or lock up the loud “Leave” leaders and their lies and promises until 24 June 2016.

  3. WWW – as you probably know, of the 801 men of the ‘Blue Putties’ who were there on the 1st July 1916, only 68 attended roll-call next day and many of them were wounded. My paternal grandfather is buried in Gouzeaucourt War Cemetery, only about thirty kilometers from Beaumont-Hamel. He survived the early days but was killed just before Christmas 1917.

    We’ll never prevent war until we stop glorifying it.

    Twilight – Europe’s fragmentation would be a disaster. The far right wing of politics in France and Germany would love to see it. I hope they never do.
    Those British politicians who campaigned to leave the E.U. should be ousted for their lies and deceit, and a new referendum arranged. I’m beginning to wonder why that’s not occurring. Perhaps there’s more gone on behind the scenes than we know about?
    I’m sorry to hear about your financial losses. I have my pensions paid into U.S. and U.K. banks ($ to $ & stirling to stirling) that way I can move bulk money to France when the rates are good. (We may be living frugally for a while, though 🙁 )

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