For many people 1st July marks the beginning of holidays... For me it will always be the starting day of the Battle of the Somme.
It had been raining for weeks in the Summer of 1916... The British attack had been planned carefully, but bad weather messed up things.
The long shelling that should have cut the German barbed wire was largely ineffective and the rain prevented the air inspections that would have showed the situation...Therefore when the attacked started, on 1st July 1916, the British troups launched themselves on a virtually intact tangle of barbed wire.
Today as "barbed wire" we mean something like this:
But that's just a "tame version " of WWI barbed wire, which was like this:
This is a real piece of WW1 barbed wire (German, I was told) coming from La Boisselle, in the heart of the Somme...It's very rusted and damaged by time, the spikes are mostly missing, but it gives an idea of how difficult it must have been to go through a defense like that (imagine a huge tangle of it...And soldiers shooting at you from the other side!).
About 20,000 British soldiers died on that First July , and a lot more were wounded ... The German situation was comparable. And this was only the first day! The battle went on for months, and the total casualties are estimated (on both parts) in about one million people.
A whole generation was wiped away...And with it, countless writers, scientists, inventors, poets, composers... People who might have invented something that would change the world, and instead died there.
And we don't think of it, but today we miss all the books they didn't write, the musics they didn't compose, the discoveries they didn't make, the paintings they didn't paint...Our world is poorer and nothing will bring back what has been lost.
Worse yet, we know what happened after that. We know that this was not the last of all wars, as people believed back then, but just one of the many. That another would follow soon, and yet others would be on their way . We probably don't even think anymore that an end to wars is possible...What a waste of lives, of opportunities, of everything.