On this day, at 07.30 a.m. 100 years ago, the battle of the Somme began. By the end of the battle, some four months later, one million men from all sides were dead or injured. Casualties were beyond horrific; 19,240 British soldiers died on the first day alone, and 40,000 were injured. It is the biggest single loss of life during the opening day of a battle in British military history.
The statistics and scale of human suffering are unimaginable, yet young men willingly gave their lives for King and Country. Here is an extract from a letter home, written by 2nd Lt John S. Engall of the 16th London Regiment. It is dated the 30th June 1916, the night before the attack on the German lines began. He wrote: “I have a strong feeling that I shall come through safely, but nonetheless, should it be God’s holy will to call me away, I am quite prepared to go; and I could not wish for a finer death; and you, dear Mother and Dad, will know that I died doing my duty to God, my country and my king. I ask that you should look upon it as an honour that you have given a son for king and country.” Along with 19,239 other brave soldiers, Engall was killed the next day.
Even with all the uncertainty and political turmoil which we currently face, we can still be thankful that so many brave young men gave their lives for our freedom in the two world wars, that we might live in peace. Let us pray for continued peace in Europe, along with a way forward that will ensure peace and security for future generations.