Article - The Battle of the Somme 1916
Local lives shattered by horror of Somme
After two Christmases at war, July 2016 will mark the centenary of a battle which shook the world. As a German officer wrote: 'Somme: the whole history of the world cannot contain a more ghastly word'.
Today it is understandably hard to imagine the scale of the slaughter. In 141 days over one million men were either killed or wounded.
Though all numbers cited here can be disputed, the allies lost 146,431 killed, 477,476 wounded.
The Germans, 164,431 killed, 301, 945 wounded, and as Churchill wrote 'The Germans' soldiery was never the same again'.
The first day of the battle, July 1, saw the country's greatest losses on a single day: 57,470 casualties, 19,240 killed.
Douglas Haig's diary reveals the commander's thoughts on these numbers: '2 July 1916: A day of ups and downs... This cannot be considered severe in view of the numbers exposed, and the length of front attacked'. (National Library of Scotland, reference Acc 3155/97). British casualties at Waterloo in 1815 were c. 15000.
Many local men served in the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment based in Preston. In July and August they suffered horrific casualties, among them 133 men of the 'Preston Pals', 70 of them on a single day, the 23 July.
All parishes in the borough shared in the catastrophe on the Somme: Leyland had 23 men killed, Farington 6, Bamber Bridge 18, Walton-le-Dale 13, Higher Walton 6, Samlesbury 4, Lostock Hall 5, Longton 3, and Penwortham 8. With a single man each from New Longton, Cuerden, Whitestake, Tardy Gate, and Much Hoole. Many have no known grave, and are among the 72, 085 men - the 'Missing of the Somme' - commemorated at the Thiepval memorial.
Eight men fell on the first day, July 1, 1916: Joseph Balshaw, William Carr and Matthew Livesey of Bamber Bridge; Harry Beardsworth, Albert Ogden and Clarence James Woodhouse of Leyland; Henry Cyril Crozier of Walton: Fred Bannister from Farington. Francis Brindle of Bamber Bridge was killed the following day.
But for their womenfolk especially the war was not over. 'Loyal' William Whiteside of Higher Walton Road was killed on 15 July. His body was never found and his wife Jane and their five children received his effects (£2-5-10d) and a gratuity (£5-10).
Originally published in the Spring 2016 edition of 'Forward with South Ribble'.
Thiepval Memorial to the missing of the Somme
Image © Charles O'Donnell 2018
Dr David Hunt (with contributions from W. E. Waring, Bill Brierley and Charles O'Donnell)
Published 12 April 2016
Published 12 April 2016