Rye British Legion, led by Col Anthony Kimber, had a great day on the Somme with a party of over 40 from Rye, including the Mayor of Rye.
Actions considered at Albert, Fricourt, Mametz, Contalmaison, Lochnagar, La Boisselle, Pozieres, Orvillers and Thiepval. Rye Standard paraded at Thiepval along with moving tributes and wreaths laid by relatives on the graves of the fallen with connections to Rye.
Among the commemorations Paul Whiteman, Rye RBL Standard Bearer, laid a wreath on the grave of his Great Uncle James Whiteman who died at the Battle for Albert on the July 7 1916, Brian Beelan laid a wreath for his relative Pte Power who died just 16 years old and Roger Evans read out letters from the front line from his Grandfather’s brother and a moving poem written on hearing of his death .
The Hon. Peter Birts read a passage from Rupert Brooke’s “Forever England”
If I should die, think only this of me:
That there’s some corner of a foreign field
That is for ever England. There shall be
In that rich earth a richer dust concealed;
A dust whom England bore, shaped, made aware,
Gave, once, her flowers to love, her ways to roam,
A body of England’s, breathing English air,
Washed by the rivers, blest by suns of home.
And think, this heart, all evil shed away,
A pulse in the eternal mind, no less
Gives somewhere back the thoughts by England given;
Her sights and sounds; dreams happy as her day;
And laughter, learnt of friends; and gentleness,
In hearts at peace, under an English heaven.
A most memorable day!
The Somme epitomised the worst of so called “industrial warfare”. During months of planning, the British were encouraged by the French to make a big push on ground not of its choosing, partly to deflect attention from the savage Gernan attack on Verdun.
The British strategy was to advance 100, 000 Allied men in waves across No Man’s Land on a 15 mile front against the Germans in very well prepared positions. The intention was to break the line and then pass a reserve army of infantry and cavalry through a gap along the Albert to Bapaume Road. This reserve would exploit forward and hook left to encircle all the Germans north of the Somme.
After a 7 day bombardment during which some 1.7 milion shells were fired by 1500 guns on a 14 mile front. As the guns ceased fire, the Allies , many with limited training, went over the top at 0730 on 1 July 1916. The Germans were well protected in deep dugouts against the artillery. As the artillery ceased, the Germans emerged and engaged. At the end of the day some 57,000 Allies were casualties; of these around 20,000 were dead or missing.
Rather than breaking the German line, very limited gains were achieved. In places, particularly in the North of the Allied line, the Allies ended the day where they had started. The battle went on for 5 months until the weather in November caused a halt.
Rye RBL has been organising Remembrance tours for over 10 years. Since 2014, we have been working through a series of Centenary tours.
Please follow the link for information on the battle and the 27 Rye men fell during the 141 day battle. Some 5 fell during the build up in June and during the early stages in July.
On our visits we have considered how and where some fell ; we have stood by many of their graves.