2004-08-14 00:07:06 (UTC)

The Battle of the Somme

I'm reading a novel, Hanging by a Thread by Gillian
Linscott, about a suffragette and peace activist who solves
murders. It's set at the beginning of World War I and in
the first few pages there a reference to 20,000 English
soldiers dying on the first day of the Battle of the Somme.
Could that number be right? That many on the first day
alone? I Googled it and found that it was indeed correct.
That battle in 1916 lasted from the beginning of July until
mid-November of the same year, when it was called off by the
British. The Allied forces were attempting to break through
the German lines along a 15 mile front north of the River
Somme with the goal to draw German forces away from the
Battle of Verdun.

The British suffered casulties of 19,240 dead on the first
day alone. The total dead in that one battle was estimated
at one million men--200,000 French and the rest about evenly
split between the Germans and the British. World War I took
the lives of nine million soldiers and nearly that many more
died on the homefront from food shortages, starvation,
genocide and simply being the unfortunate family living
right on the battlefront.

All wars are terrible and if someone you loved died in one,
it's all the more terrible. Still, our whining about the
war in Iraq, a war which has lasted now for over a year and
taken fewer than 1,000 of our soldiers, seems pathetic in
the face of what others went through.