It’s hard to imagine being at home in 1916, one hundred years ago, waiting for news of fathers, sons, husbands, fiancés, brothers, away at ‘the War’. If I were here, where I am now, in Perth, chances are my husband would have been serving in the 25th Light Horse Regiment somewhere in Palestine or the Sinai, a proud Sandgroper representing state, country and Crown. And me – well, in theory, I would have been at home, keeping the campfires burning, writing long letters to the Front, and dreaming of the day he came home to me, safe and sound.
In another galaxy, far, far, away, one hundred years ago, as the fourth of July weekend was getting ready to rumble in the 1916 jungle, innumerable young British soldiers, members of the Fourth Army, were preparing to immobilise for the Battle of the Somme. ‘Z Day’, as it was called, was supposed to be June 29, but due to poor weather it was postponed.
On a moonless but clear night, between 0200 and 0515, these young boys – these schoolboy warriors, these captains courageous – made their way along prepared lines to the Front, ready for Zero Hour at 0730, July 1.
By November 18, the total British Commonwealth toll of casualties and dead (or MIA) stood at 419,654 and 95,675 respectively. The Allied toll, including the French: 623,907, and 146, 431. German dead and casualty lists were equally horrific, at 465,000 and 164,055.