David Childs

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old,
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn:
At the going down of the sun, and in the morning,
We will remember them.

On 18 November 1916, after 141 days of conflict, the Battle of the Somme was halted by the weather and military exhaustion. At the end the British and French could look at 6 miles of German held territory gained at the cost of 419,654 British and about 200,000 French killed or wounded. Britain and the Commonwealth listed 95,675 men as killed or wounded while the German casualty figure was in the region of 600,000. The battle was originally regarded as a hard-fought victory against a brave, experience and well-defended foe but in the 1930's the concept of 'blood, mud and futility' took hold with the criticism of the C-in-C as 'Butcher' Haig. Recent historians have revised this view based around the question as to what other options there were with an army of new volunteers. It was the Somme that indicated how important in the future would be air-power and the tank which was introduced to the battlefield during this campaign.


The November Poem Lt. Ewart Mackintosh MC served with the Seaforth Highlanders during the Battle of Beaumont Hammel on the Somme when they suffered two hundred casualties successfully assaulting a position that the German's were convinced was impregnable. While recovering from his wounds in hospital he wrote this poem mourning the loss of those men. He returned to the front only to be killed at Cambrai on 23rd November 1917.

From Home
To the Men who Fell at Beaumont Hammel, 13 November 1916

The pale sun woke in the eastern sky
And a veil of mist was drawn
Over the faces of death and fame
When you went up in the dawn.
With never a thought of fame or death,
Only the work to do,
When you went over the top, my friends,
And I not there with you.

The veil is rent with a rifle-flash
And shows me plain to see
Battle and bodies of men that lived
And fought along with me.
Oh God! It would have been so hard
If I'd been in it too,
But you are lying stiff, my friends,
And I not there with you.

So here I sit in a pleasant room
By a comfortable fire,
With everything that a man could want,
But not the heart's desire.
So I sit thinking and dreaming still,
A dream that won't come true,
Of you in the German trench, my friends,
And I not there with you.

©  Tisbury History Society
free hit counter javascript