Friday, July 01, 2016

Open ossuaries...

[edited 11 a.m.] Today marks the start date, 100 years ago, of the Battle of the Somme (The Somme Offensive). The absolute horror of the First World War, if not realised when reading details, is brought home when we look at the numbers of dead and wounded.

The irony of the Battle of the Somme and the Battle of Kovel-Stanislav (better known as the Brusilov Offensive, where the Russians, at the request of the French, opened up another front to the east against Austria-Hungary) was that the intention was to relieve the valiant French at the hell of Verdun (which itself lasted for 10 months and became the longest battle in human history, with more than 300,000 deaths and up to 700,000 wounded). “Hell cannot be so terrible as this. Humanity is mad; it must be mad to do what it is doing.”, anonymous French soldier.

In the Brusilov Offensive casualties and deaths were at least a million and a half. At the Somme the length of battle was less than 5 months; on the first DAY 19,240 British soldiers lost their lives (the bloodiest day in the whole history of the British army). [edited 03/07] The deaths and wounded from all nations by November totaled between 950 thousand and one MILLION dead or wounded... These three offensives (in both senses of the word!) were the worst in pure numbers of dead and wounded - and all were in 1916 - but made up a few of dozens of battles or operations in WWI with deaths and casualties in the tens/hundreds of thousands; the two battles of Marne and the three at Ypres also account for over 800 thousand and 900 thousand casualties respectively.

Image from The Royal British Legion commemorating the 'memory of the fallen and the future of the living'.

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