Battle of the Somme. Supporting troops moving up to the attack, 25th Sept 1916. © IWM (Q 1308)
Exactly 100 years ago, on July 1st, 1916, British and French soldiers advanced on German troops in northern France, thus beginning the Battle of the Somme, a particularly devastating 5-month period of World War I during which hundreds of thousands lost their lives. Nearly 20,000 British soldiers were killed on the first day alone. Below is just one of millions of letters sent home as the war raged, written by Pte John Shaw of the Royal Fusiliers in October as he lay injured on the battlefield, fearing the worst having been shot in the leg. Sadly, he died from his wounds 10 days later.
(Source: The Trench.)
My Dear Mother
Am just dropping you a line to let you know I am wounded. We went over the top on Sunday 8th and I got wounded. I managed to crawl back to our lines an unrecognised regt, worse luck and here I am. Been here 4 days today & dying for a drink. Someone run into us the other day and promised to get us out of it. But we are still here. Never even brought us any water. I have been shot through the hips and cannot use my right leg, properly knock up. Pity, when one gets a blighty one too, after so long.
Well darling, I am still cheerful of getting home. If not you will receive this letter which they surely will send to know I died for my country and home like a man. I am laying writing this on the Somme Battle. It is some battle too, I can tell you. The noise of the shells and guns worry the life out of anyone. Well dearest I am going to try to get out tonight if it gets quieter. Then you won’t receive this letter. Well darling I must close now trusting this will find dear old Dad, Harry and Freddie in the best of health. Sorry I cannot say the same.
Your loving sonJack
PS Remember me to all the girls. Dear Alice, Ada and Tina. Also Alf. Tell them I died the death of a soldier and man. Whatever you do, dear, don’t worry yourself. Promise me that. All for a good cause.