Archive for Battle of the Somme

Private Arnold Ridley

Posted in History, Television with tags , , , on November 11, 2018 by telescoper

You probably recognize the elderly gentleman in the photograph on the right as Arnold Ridley who played Private Godfrey in the TV comedy series Dad’s Army. You might not have realized that the person on the left is also Arnold Ridley, photographed shortly after he enlisted in the Somerset Light Infantry in 1915. You also may not know that Ridley fought with great courage in the Battle of the Somme in 1916, during which he was very badly injured.

After being ordered to go `over the top’ near Gueudecourt as part of the Somme offensive, many of Ridley’s battalion were killed by machine gun fire as they advanced towards the enemy lines, but Ridley was among those who survived long enough to reach the German trenches.

In the desperate hand-to-hand struggle that ensued as he and the rest of unit fought their way along a trench, Ridley was knocked out by a blow from a rifle butt that turned out to have cracked his skull, and was bayonetted in the groin. His legs were riddled with shrapnel and he received a further bayonet wound to the hand, which left him permanently disabled. Somehow he survived, though for the rest of his life he suffered from blackouts and recurrent nightmares. He was discharged from the army on medical grounds in 1916, at the rank of Lance Corporal.

He never told anyone – not even his family – how he sustained his wartime injuries, and the facts only became known long after his death (in 1984, at the age of 88).

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November 18th 1916: The End of the Somme Offensive

Posted in History with tags , , , on November 18, 2016 by telescoper

If you think a lot has happened between this summer and now, it is perhaps worth reflecting on the fact that the Battle of the Somme, which started on July 1st 1916, only came to an end on November 18th 1916, i.e. one hundred years ago today. The last phase of the Somme Offensive was the Battle of the Ancre which lasted from November 13th until November 18th. Though the key objective (of eliminating a German salient) was not met, and casualties were heavy, this battle is considered a qualified success for the British Army, who secured the key position of Beaumont Hamel, though the village itself was almost completely destroyed during the fighting:

 

beaumont-hamel

The battlefield at Beaumont-Hamel, taken in November 1916

Incidentally, Beaumont-Hamel had seen fighting since the very first day of the Battle of the Somme. On July 1st 1916, 700 men of the Newfoundland Regiment gave their lives there as they went “over the top” and were promptly mown down by machine guns. There is an important memorial to their sacrifice there.

The statistics of the Somme Offensive are truly horrific. In total well over a million men were killed or seriously wounded during the 141 day campaign. By the time it finished the British, French and Commonwealth armies had advanced a maximum of about 6 miles. Most historians describe the outcome as “inconclusive”, largely on the grounds equal numbers of soldiers were slaughtered on each side.  It was a stalemate, but the price paid in blood was appalling.

The carnage didn’t end with the Somme. As the “Great War” stumbled on, battle after battle degenerated into bloody fiasco. Just a year later the Third Battle of Ypres saw another 310,000 dead on the British side as another major assault on the German defences faltered in the mud of Passchendaele. By the end of the War on 11th November 1918, losses on both sides were counted in millions.

 

 

 

The Last Post – Cardiff University Remembers

Posted in History with tags , , , , on November 11, 2016 by telescoper

 

If you think a lot has happened since July 1st this year, pause a moment to reflect on the fact that 100 years ago today the Battle of the Somme was still raging.

 

Lest we forget.