Executive Leader Cllr Kieran Quinn

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Councillor Kieran Quinn

In Memory of the Fallen

Friday, 01 July 2016

At 7:28am this morning the entire nation united in a two minute silence to remember the 100th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme. At 7:28am on the 1st July 1916, ten mines were exploded under German trenches after an artillery bombardment so intense it was heard on Hampstead Heath in North London. Two minutes later over 120,000 British soldiers went over the top across a 16-mile long front to assault the German trenches.

By the end of the day, over 58,000 of them had fallen to machine guns, shells and bayonets. It was the bloodiest 24 hours in British military history. When you compare it to the casualties among our armed forces in other famous battles in our countries past; 8,400 at Waterloo, 255 during the entire Falklands War and 1,964 during the months of the Battle of Britain, the sheer scale of the slaughter becomes apparent. Even though he was on the opposite side, I’m sure that German officer Friedrich Steinbrecher spoke for everybody when he said, “Somme. The whole history of the world cannot contain a more ghastly word”.

But that first, cataclysmic day was by no means the end of the carnage. The wider Somme offensive raged for over five months. By the time the autumn mud and sheer mass of casualties brought the battle to a screeching halt, over 1.2 million soldiers on both sides were lost. It was, in the worst sense of the word, a lost generation of young men. A Sergeant in the Glasgow Chambers of Commerce Regiment, David S Morton, wrote to his local newspaper asking them to publish a list of the casualties among his men, as it was no longer possible for him to write a letter to each family individually.

There were casualties closer to home as well. At the start of the war, Lord Kitchener had agreed that those who “joined together” would “serve together”. At the Somme and many other battlefields throughout France, they died together as well.

Tameside’s fallen on the first day of the Somme included Sergeant Phillip Preston, Private Allen Shaw, Private Fred Knowles, Private G Crowther, Private Alfred Sellers, Lieutenant Alfred Eric Hampson, Lieutenant P Gordon Ross and Lieutenant Eric Goddard. There are almost certainly more whose bodies were not found or identified in the fighting. Private Tom Lees wrote to his parents saying that he was one of only nine men from Hyde left in the Manchester Pals Regiment.

For these men, and for the countless others who fell in every bloody field of World War One, we stood in silence today and swore “Never Again!”

Posted by: Kieran Quinn

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