At 7:30am on the 1st July 2016, thousands of British, Commonwealth and French forces went ‘over the top’, signalling the beginning of the most tragic campaign in British military history.
On this one day, a hundred years ago, nearly 20,000 men lost their lives, with many tens of thousands more injured.
Michael Morpurgo recently visited the battlefields and wrote this whilst he was there.
I have stood and looked out over where they fell,where so many of them still lie. Birds sing here now, swallows flit and swoop, as they did then on that morning of the 1st of July in 1916.
No thunderous barrage now, no death rattle of machine guns, no spit of rifle fire. Green fields and woods cover the scars of war. The wire and trenches are gone. Were it not for the white stones and crosses, we would not know that men had died here, in their thousands, lay wounded, endured their pain, their last thoughts of home and family.
There was never such sudden and terrible parting as this, and when the news came home, never such grieving. Out of this suffering, this loss, this grieving, our peace and freedom have grown, as the trees have grown. It has been a peace and a freedom they gave us.
The men who died we can no longer remember, but what they did we can and must remember. They fought their war for our peace, a peace we should never take for granted.
That is what we should not forget and why we should never forget them.
– Michael Morpurgo, 1st July 2016
[Photo credit: Kevin Lake, 2016]