Under marble shields

Today marks the anniversary of the start of one of the most bloody battles of World War One. The Battle of the Somme. The battle took place between the 1st of July and the 18 November in 1916 and which by the end of the battle the British Army had suffered 420,000 casualties including nearly 60,000 on the first day alone and the French lost 200,000 men and the Germans nearly 500,000.

The vast majority of those Commonwealth soldiers who were killed were buried either where they fell or in hastily prepared graves nearby. The practice of non-repatriation of the dead was established during the First World War and meant that servicemen and women who died on active service abroad, were buried abroad. The countryside of France and Belgium is peppered with the immaculately maintained cemeteries that are looked after by the CWGC – The Commonwealth War Graves Commission

But closer to home there are many headstones from soldiers of the First World War that are scattered in cemeteries all over the country. The majority of those buried in the United Kingdom are predominantly the men and women who died at home in military hospitals after evacuation from the front. Others may have died in training accidents, some were killed in action in the air or at sea in our coastal waters.

I’ve photographed the headstones of a number of World War One soldiers who have graves marked in cemeteries near where I live. I visited Saltburn, Brotton, Skelton and Guisborough and through the project I made a record of a number of graves of those killed during or soon after the end of WW1.

 

The headstones of all British and Commonwealth are maintained and funded by the CWGC – The Commonwealth War Graves Commission

Facts about the Battle of the Somme:

  1. The Battle of the Somme was originally meant to be a French led offensive with the British in support. It was also initially planned for August 1916
  2. When the German army attacked Verdun in February 1916 it was clear that France would not be able to lead any major offensive in 1916, indeed a British diversionary attack was needed fast to take the pressure of the French and divert German resources away from Verdun. That diversionary attack turned out to be the Battle of the Somme
  3. The preliminary bombardment lasted eight days and saw over 1,600 pieces of British artillery fire 1.73 million shells on to the German lines.
  4. The first infantry attack took place in the early morning of 1st July 1916 – the battle continued until the 18th November
  5. Many of the shells that were fired in that preliminary bombardment were duds and failed to explode. Those that did explode tended to be shrapnel shells which had little effect on barbed wire defences, dugouts and enemy strong points
  6. The average British infantryman carried 30kg of equipment as he went over the top during the first phase of the battle
  7. Britain lost 57,470 casualties (killed and wounded) on the first day of the Battle of the Somme
  8. 19,240 British soldiers were killed on the first day of the battle
  9. The oldest British soldier to die during the battle was Lt Henry Webber, 7th South Lancashire Regiment. He was 68 when he died on 27th July 1916
  10. On 15 September 1916 at Flers-Courcelette the tank made its operational debut. Although they scared many of the German soldiers in the front line, a mixture of poor tactics and unreliability meant that overall they failed to make a great impact
  11. During the Battle of the Somme 51 Victoria Crosses were awarded – 17 of them were awarded posthumously
  12. During the battle between July and November 1916, the French and British armies suffered around 625,000 casualties
  13. Germany casualty figures for the battle are estimated at 500,000
  14. The furthest advance of any allied force during the battle was five miles

 

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No usage without arrangement.

The Bombardment

Memorial events have been held today in Hartlepool, Whitby and Scarborough to commemorate a naval bombardment of the towns 100 hundred years ago, by German warships during World War One.

Of the three towns Hartlepool was the most affected by the shelling with over 1,100 shells falling on the community during a frantic forty minute period that saw men, women, children and military personnel killed. Dozens of buildings were destroyed or damaged and many of those hit are still scarred by pieces of shrapnel embedded in the walls. The Headland area of the town which was home to the Heugh gun battery, suffered some of the worst damage with Moor Terrace, Victoria Place and Cliff Terrace being particularly badly hit.

The Headland’s Heugh Gun Battery returned fire in what was the only battle to be fought on British soil during World War One, and one of the Battery’s soldiers, Theo Jones of the Durham Light Infantry, became the first British soldier to be killed by enemy action on home soil since the Battle of Culloden in 1746.

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Flight Lieutenant Anthony Moy stands at sunrise next to a gun (not of the WW1 era) on Hartlepool Headland

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Members of the 18th Battalion Durham Light Infantry Commemoration Society stand as honour guard during the service…

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IFXP0005David Little from the 18th Battalion Durham Light Infantry Commemoration Society

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Local schoolchildren released balloons into the air as the names of those killed during the bombardment were read out

IFXT0046Veterans stand at sunrise during the morning service

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Representatives of military and civilian services laid wreaths

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The window of a nearby house has a poignant poster in the window remembering

those who were killed in that house 100 years ago

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Veterans stand during the service in Hartlepool

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Members of the 18th Battalion Durham Light Infantry Commemoration Society prepare to place a ‘time-capsule’ into the ground

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Crosses of Remembrance

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A woman looks on during the service

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Schoolchildren from St Aidan’s Primary School plant 130 ceramic poppies – some of the ones used at the recent Tower of London memorial – in

memory of the 130 people who were killed during the bombardment

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A standard bearer from the Royal British Legion

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Buglers from the Royal Marines played the Last Post before a minute’s silence was held

 

 

See more of my photographs on my website and blogs via the link…… HERE

Images remain copyright Ian Forsyth. No usage without arrangement.

The light’s go out in Yarm

To commemorate and remember the start of World War One on the 4th August, 1914 and as part of tributes and events taking place around the country the people of Yarm near Stockton came together last night to hold a service to show their respects to amongst the many thousands of others the 91 men from the town who died during the war. Held as part of the countrywide event organised by the group ‘1418now’ called Lights Out .

Ninety one candles, representing each of the men from Yarm who died during the Great War were lit and placed in specially made glass poppies. As the names of those men were read out to the gathered crowds each candle was extinguished until only one remained and at the stroke of eleven – the time that Britain entered into war with Germany – the final candle was blown out….

 

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To see more of my work visit my website and blogs…… HERE

Images remain copyright Ian Forsyth /  Getty Images

‘Weihnachtsfrieden’ – For all those that fell

For just the briefest of moments around Christmas time in 1914 a small reminder of normality amidst the chaos and madness of warfare returned when men, very young men, sitting in the cold trenches of the German Army and dug into the mud of the French countryside began to sing Christmas carols. As their voices rose up and filled the air this small escape from the hardships they were enduring led to a series of widespread and unofficial ceasefires that took place along many parts of the Western Front.

When these German soldiers started to sing the British troops responded and gradually both sets of soldiers moved out of their trenches and met in no-man’s land. The British soldiers on the Frelinghien-Houplines sector on the western front were the main allied participants in the Christmas festivities. After exchanging stories, food and gifts, seasonal greetings, and holding joint burials and singing carols together several games of football broke out – The only result recorded was a 3-2 victory by the Germans, quoted in soldiers’ letters from both sides – On some parts of the front hostilities were officially resumed on Boxing Day at 0830 with a ceremonial pistol shot marking the occasion. In other areas non-aggressive behaviour lasted for days and, in some cases, weeks.

At the time this was all happening around 40,000 Britons had lost their lives – a tiny number compared to the body count by 1918 – as well as thousands more on the French, Belgian and German sides and the Christmas truce or to give it its German name of Weihnachtsfrieden is now looked upon as a symbolic moment of peace and humanity amongst one of the most violent and destructive moments in our history. Over the following years however and despite a small number of truces continuing there were far less of them as orders from the military hierarchy warning against fraternisation with the ‘enemy’ were strictly enforced. As following years saw battles taking place at places such as Verdun and the Somme and with both sides employing poisoned gas and aerial bombardment each increasingly thought of the other side as less than human and became increasingly bitter before eventually any form of truce became unthinkable.

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An event in Saltburn at the weekend commemorated the moment when the opposing troops came together during an event organised to help raise money for the Royal British Legion. Thousands of visitors came to the beach to watch the football game with the players wearing the respective uniforms of the British and German armies. Many visitors bought remembrance crosses that were then planted by Army cadets in a temporary memorial garden created on the beach. Stalls offered food and music was provided by a brass band. The event and the day culminated in a fly past by a vintage Tiger Moth aeroplane that dropped 45,000 poppies over the spectators on the beach as it flew past overhead

 

DSCF0046Both sides line up behind the memorial poppies planted on the beach

 

DSCF0005An on duty RNLI lifeguard watches over visitors to the beach

DSCF0007Army cadets help to move sandbags into positions around the ‘pitch’ created on the beach

DSCF0015Emma-Kate Young from Redcar and a member of the RBL dresses in period clothing

DSCF0027Phil Meadows from the Teesside pipe band plays on the pier

DSCF0032Elliot Kennedy (L) and Barry Jones from Preston Hall are dressed in period police uniforms

DSCF0047David Lambert (L) and Nick Wall are dressed in the uniforms of the 8th Battalion Yorkshire Regiment

DSCF0051Soldiers shadows are cast on the beach

DSCF0056Thousands of visitors watch the football game on the beach

IF1_5300Teddy McGill, 2 from Redcar helps to hang bunting at the beach huts

DSCF0008A visitor carries deck chairs onto the beach

DSCF0014Thousands of poppies are planted in a temporary memorial garden on the beach…

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IF1_5366‘German Army’ footballers wait to start the game

IF1_5394Both sides line up behind the memorial poppies planted on the beach

IF1_5371A photo of a cross marking the location of one of the actual football games that took place is held

IF1_5389A young boy dressed in period uniform stands with the soldiers

DSCF0082The German Army

DSCF0091The British Army

IF1_5412The football match begins…

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IF1_5486-2A Tiger Moth make the first of three runs over the beach and pier

 

Some of the pictures from this set also appeared here….

Daily Mail

Belfast Telegraph – World in pictures

Chicago Sun Times – Pictures of the Day

Zimbio

Visit the Royal British Legion website here

More of my pictures can be seen on my blogs and website here

 Images remain copyright Ian Forsyth/Getty Images

Getty Images