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those, from Burpham and Jacobs Well who gave their lives in the 1914-1918 war

‘Burpham Will Remember Them’

In the early 1900s Burpham was in the Parish of Worplesdon and together with Jacob’s Well was essentially one large, scattered, community.

‘The War to End All Wars’ -

Part 6: The Battle of the Somme - the WW1 battle that changed history

On 1st July, 98 years ago, two vast armies went to battle in the Somme area, in north-eastern France. A week of heavy shelling preceded the Allies’ attack. It is recorded that 1,738,000 shells fell on the rich fields either side of the Somme river during those seven days - though goodness knows who counted them. With the deafening roar of the big guns in their ears, the allied soldiers emerged from their trenches to be met with the inevitable hail of bullets from the German machine guns. By the end of the first day’s fighting over 60,000 British soldiers were casualties and no less than 19,240 had been killed. The most devastating battle of modern times - and possibly of human history - was under way.

The Battle of the Somme, as it was called, was the first to see tanks and aircraft employed on a large scale. It was fought along a 25 mile front. The battle involved vast numbers of men - British and soldiers from no less than eight countries of the Empire, French and German - and more than a million of them were eventually killed or injured. As the generals poured more and more troops into the battle in the vain hope of what they called a ‘breakthrough’, nothing much happened beyond the constant slaughter.

The battle went on through August, September and October and only ended, on November 18th, when the utter futility of the whole exercise seemed to dawn on both sides. As they counted the casualties - 420,000 British, 200,000 French, nearly half a million Germans - they could also calculate the net gain of all that bloodshed. The Allies had pushed the Germans back all of six miles. It was later worked out that for every mile taken 88,000 men lost their lives.

There were amazing acts of valour and heroism in the course of the battle. No fewer than 51 Victoria Crosses - the highest award for gallantry in battle - were won by British combatants. At home, the press tended to focus on such heroic deeds rather than on the carnage on the battle-field, but the truth eventually emerged. To misquote Winston Churchill, "Never in all the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so many". Every town, every village, every family would bear the scars of suffering for years to come.

Lessons were learned, of course - most obviously the futility of trench warfare. Battle and war would never be the same again. Face to face, inch by inch, cold steel to cold steel, knee deep in mud men fought and died. All across northern France the millions of graves still bear their silent testimony to the dedication and courage of young men who had their lives snatched from them in battle. Mars, the god of war, had had his greatest moment, though his appetite was not quite satisfied yet.

David Winter,

a former Head of Religious Broadcasting at the BBC