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Death Takes the Upper Hand: Battle of the Somme Let us Remember!

Updated: Nov 15, 2019

Battle of the Somme

1,000,000 casualties, and over 300,000 men were killed or declared missing.

103 years have passed since the battle of the Somme in France during the first world war, or as it is also known “The Great War”. This July let’s take a small bit of our time to reflect and remember that there was once a time when thousands of soldiers would be killed or horribly mangled in a day. The Battle of the Somme lasted almost five months, with over 1,000,000 casualties, and over 300,000 men were killed or declared missing. Let’s face it, when that many men die over a plot of ground, humanity is the loser, no matter what side really wins the battle. “Death” had the upper hand in France, not for a day or two, but for 141 days of bloodshed and misery.

A great way to reflect on the blood that was shed on that French hollowed ground is to have a read of “When the Whistle Blow” by Ian C Garside. As you read this poem, put yourself in a trench on that July morning of 1916 in France and think, would I have the courage to go “Over the Top”?

When the whistle blows.

Over the top boys, over the top. Scramble the ladder and up on your toes, from trench into hell when the whistle blows. Over the top boys, over the top.

Over by Christmas just wait, wait and see cry the voices of hope and powers that be. Lights over Europe would flicker then out each side buoyed up by the certain rout.

All pals together to face down the Hun, charge at the foe with bayonet and gun. The enemy waits with baited breath, to loose off volleys of certain death, . Over the top boys, over the top.

For King or Kaiser came the rallying cry kill or be killed, to live and let die. Trust unto God or roll of the dice, face down in mud attended by lice .

Through booming shells hang on to your hat, Knee-deep in slime there is no going back. Gulping for air through machine gun rattle scurrying like rats into futile battle.

Upwards and onwards and eternal glory, yard by yard through the gas and the fury. The Reaper beckons come meet thy maker shrouds at the ready sighs the coffin draper.

Over the top boys, over the top.

Christmas falls with handshakes and names, fellowship, carols, then football games. Tunics for goalposts and a ball is gifted, Joy to the World spirits briefly lifted.

Sport not war was the winner that day, But the truce only masked its feet of clay. The whistle blows so line up the willing, no man’s land waits for the price of a shilling.

In Flanders fields where Poppies flourished, Lies soul upon soul, crushed, unnourished. Remember them all, both sides to a man that never again will slaughter to lamb.

The guns fell silent at eleven o’clock war to end all wars had come to a stop. Gone are the ones briefly befriended, finally done, the carnage is ended.

Lest we forget them count the great loss, carve names in stone and mark with a cross. Brothers in arms entombed in a row, No more to hear the death whistle blow.

Over the top boys, over the top. Over, over, over.

Dedicated to the memory of the fallen during the Great War 1914-18. By Ian C Garside.

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