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The Great War - Battle of the Somme

The first day of the Somme offensive was the bloodiest in the history of the British Army.


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The Great War - Battle of the Somme

July 1st 1916

The first day of the Somme offensive was the bloodiest in the history of the British Army. Between 7.30am and midnight over 19,000 men died and more than 60,000 lay injured.
Over four months later, when the battle finally ended on 18th November, the allies had advanced only 5 miles at the cost of over half a million lives.

Many men from Northern Ireland lost their lives during the Somme offensive. The 36th (Ulster) Division, the 16th (Irish) Division and the 1st Battalion of the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers were among those units who suffered heavy casualties.

The soldiers scrambled out of the trenches when the 'Over the Top' order was given

The men lived in deep trenches, where conditions were appalling and when it rained everything just turned to mud. When the "Over the Top" order was given the soldiers scrambled up the ladders out of the trenches and marched forward side by side. As the air became thick with machine gun fire, friend fell next to friend, brother next to brother.

The three Donaldson brothers from Comber (aged between 19 and 21) died side by side at Thiepval on the first day of the battle. Sadly they weren't the only Ulster family to suffer such a loss - read about the Hobbs Brothers .

Have you any stories, photographs or memorabilia relating to the Battle of the Somme or World War I?

At your comment to this article by filling in the form at the bottom of the page or e-mail us at

There are numerous articles on this site relating to the Battle of the Somme - See also:

Somme hero: Robert Quigg VC 1885 - 1955

Battle of the Somme

Battle of the Somme - Memorabilia

The Larne Fallen

An Enniskillen VC

Lurgan Men in the Great War

World War I: Soldiers of Down

The Peake Brothers at War 1914-18



Paul - Mar '08
Three of my uncles were killed and one was very badly wounded in the Great War so I know what the Donaldson family went through.

Fred Bradley - Feb '07
just found out my grandfather died france 1916 in the great war.Ihave been told there was an article in a local paper giving names and adresses of soldiers who went from londonderry/derry but I cant find it after lengthty searches.

Dianne Garrett - Jan '07
I have just received my grandfathers WW1 forces record He was a member of the Australian Imperial Expeditionary Forces it says he went to Bordon from Australia in April 1917 could this be the same place Sorry this does not exactly refer to the article above but I am trying to find where in Borden he was sent to

Jess- Jan '07
great to learn but so sad when we watched a film about it, it was done from the German side which was good to see as it showed that our country made some bad mistakes and dicisions as well!!

Susan Oram - Sep '06
We have a world war one gun shell given to us by our mum, it belonged to our grandfather but we don't know how it came in to his possession (he was in the 2nd WW). We think it is a West Yorkshire army shell, but not sure, how do we find out the histor of it?
Thank you.

Laurine Potter -Sep '06
My great great uncle Sandy lost his life at the somme but he died on 16th May 1915 aged just 17 before the offensive on 1st of July 1916!
He was private Alexander McIlree of the 2nd Battalion of the Royal Inneskillen Fusiliers one of eight brother's all of which faught in the great war. their mother my great great grandmother Lizzie McIlree received this letter from the Privey Officer of Buckingham Palace on 1st February 1915 just 3 months before loosing her youngest son!

" Madam
I have the honour to inform you that the King has heard with much interest that you have, at the present moment, eight sons in the army. I am commanded to express to you the King's congratulations and to assure you that His Majesty much appreciates the spirit of patriotism which prompted this example, in one family, of loyalty and devotion to their sovereign and empire.

I have the honour to be, madam, your obedient servant

F. Ponsonby
Keeper of the privy purse "

Anne - Sep '06
My Grandfather was a Private in the Royal Berkshire Regiment, his name was Charles McHugh. Grandfather fought in the Battle of the Somme - and was badly injured when a piece of shrappnel hit him in the face. Charles was shipped home to blighty, and he eventually returned home to Glasgow. I have his medals from this Battle, my most cherished possessions.

Does anyone know where the troops who were injured at the Somme, were hospitalized? My Mother remembers photo's of my Grandfather in his 'Hospital Blues' unfortunately we cannot find these photo's now..

I was able to download my Grandfather's Military Record from the National Archives Website - £3.50 well spent.

Bob - July '06
War is futile however bravery is to be respected.

Tony Sweeting - June '06
Roberson George Blackmore SWEETING would have been my uncle had he lived. He was in the London Rifle Brigade at GOMMECOURT salient of the Somme and was killed on 1st July 1916. He was eldest son of William and Catherine SWEETING, born Lambeth March 1892. His younger brother, my late father, remembered going to meet Rob at the London station when he came home on leave for 48 hours in 1915 and watching the troops arrive still covered in mud from the trenches along with an incessant stream of wounded and maimed.

Amanda Lousie Bloomer - June '06
My grandfather ARTHUR DAVID PORTER joined the Royal Artillery in 1910 and during WW1 he fought at the Battle of the Somme, being awarded the Mons Star.
After the War he remained a reservist and re-joined in 1938 at the time of the Munich Crisis. He went on to serve throughout the whole of WW2 serving with the 14th Army in Burma.
Grandad was injured in action with the Gurkhas and was eventually, thanks to their assistance, returned to England where he was hospitalised.
One of my mother's early memories was of him coming home on a short leave from the convalescent home when he took her to the local cinema. He was in his "desert" uniform with the blue flash denoting he had been injured and was wearing his medals from the earlier campaigns. Whilst they were waiting in the foyer to take their seats strangers kept coming up to him to "shake the hand of a hero" and the cinema manager gave my mother a small dorothy bag containing sugared almonds, "for the daughter of a hero". Grandad who was a very modest man was completely embarrassed by all the attention.

Jan G Ball, nee Cooper - June '06
To-day my Grandaughter was 9 years old, she is the great great Grandaughter of my grandfather who was in the Battle of the Somme, with the Royal Newfoundland Regiment. It was very fitting to see the Newfoundland memorial Grounds to-night on TV. He was James Joseph Cooper from St. John's Newfoundland. On July 1, 1916 at Beaumant Hammel nine hundred youg men from the other side of the Atlantic went over the top . Three minutes later 700 were dead My Papa was one of the lucky ones . He was badly wounded and spent a long time on Hospital then returning to the front. He raised a family in Ayr where the Regiment were given warm hospitality from the town.

Tanya Wakefield - June '06
My great uncle John Daniel Griffiths, who served in the Worcester regiment, died in the battle of the Somme in 1916. His body was never found, but my elderly father has more information on how he died and the movements of his regiment up to the time of his death.

Vanessa Howse - June '06
My husbands' great uncle was killed in the Battle of the Somme on 18th June 1917. He was in the 4th Suffolk. His grave is marked at the Arras Memorial. My husbands' grandmother had a photo of her brother in a locket which she wore for many years after his death. He was 35 when he died. I have the photo - a very handsome young man. I am doing research into the families history and would hope one day to visit the cemetery as I know no other member of the family has been able to. His name was George Holmes -201607 Private 4th Suffolk.

Donald Baxter, Nuneaton - June '06
My father in law William Parnell was attached to the Royal Field Artillery having lied about his age to get in. Born Sept 3rd 1898.In July 1916 aged 18 his horse was shot and killed from beneath him and W Parnell subsequently had to have his right leg amputated on the battle field. Of course there was no anesthetics and just a wipe of alcohol (whisky I believe was used) and a very rough field medics saw to take the leg off. For this injury he received approximately 17/6 pence per week, but he returned to the pits of Nuneaton where he received an award for never missing a days work other than his trek to Birmingham to have his artificial leg seen to every so often. This was supposed to be the war to end all wars, and with what all the soldiers did suffer it is a pity that this doesn't`t ring true today. Bill died in 1976 without ever complaining about the lack of his one leg.

Lesley Jean Diaper - June '06
My grandmother's brother Sergeant Richard Albert Ritchie, 14809, 8th Bn., Norfolk Regiment died on 1 July 1916 and is remembered at Thiepval Memorial. His only daughter Eva is still alive aged 94, whom he never saw.

Mary Franklin (nee Beaumont) - June '06
My father, Private Edgar Beaumont, Seaforth Highlanders, served in the first world war. He volunteered on the outbreak of hostilities.
He fought in the desperate Battle of Ypres, also near Arras and in the Somme offensive of 1916. Whilst taking part in the last operation he was badly wounded and had to be evacuated back to England where he received treatment for many months for the injuries he received. He remained in hospital for a long time and was discharged in 1919. He holds the 1914 star and the general service and victory medals.
He died in 1940 at the age of 46.


Jeff Johnson - June '06
My Grandfather, Jack Waddington, from near Colne in Lancashire, was a regular soldier in the Coldstream Guards before the First War, and was stationed in Windsor, where he met my Grandmother, who was in service. He was part of the BEF who went into Belgium at the start of the war to try and stop the German advance. He survived intact until the Somme, where during an attack he was hit in the knee by an 'illegal' pom-pom (blunted) bullet. As a boy I remember him speaking about his memories of being left outside the medical tent with the rest of the wounded, where his only treatment was to be suspended in a barrel of salt water. Jack was a quiet man who bore the crippling effects of the Somme with dignity for the rest of his life.

Mrs Freda Shaw - June '06
My grandfather Frederick Gilbert Anderson was in the battle of the Somme serving with the Northamptonshire Regiment. He was awarded the Military Medal on ? 18th July 1917. He received a serious leg injury [shrapnel] which gave him problems for the rest of his life.The captain who he served under was awarded a VC. I have been trying for a long time to recover his Military Medal. According to old family members he sold his medal at a time of great hardship. Can anyone help me please?

Rachael - May '06
I was really worried about exams and I found this site and it gave me all the info i needed in order to get great marks, so keep it up!

Christopher Gallagher - March '06
can i just say to MC it makes me shiver with pride to read your comments on the great war it was a pleasure to read it and know you understand wat im trying to tell people in my other comments keep them coming i would also like to say its great to see so many youn people learning and remembering the war and the men in it. if we keep this up it will be pushed to be put in our school history classes and in ur catholic schools especially if you want more information contact glenn barr, ebringtone centre to find out how you and your schools can get involved.

Stacey, from Sir Thomas Boughey High School - March '06
I am 13 years old and i absolutely adore history, i have had to do a very hard piece of history homework on the battle of the somme, this website has helped me extremely, i am taking my options this year and i will obviously take history as it is the best subject.

Leonie - Jan '06
This is a good website and it helped me with my very hard history homework. It gave me a good understanding of what the somme offensive was.

Larry Brown - January '06
James Samuel Davidson was killed in the first day of the Somme. James was the only son of Samuel Cleland Davidson, the founder of Sirocco Works. It is known that James died with honour and valour.

Amy Dickin - January '06
I'm only 13. Many people in my class at school say what is the point of learning history. If they just looked at this page and realised that all those people lost their lives, fighting for this country, they would hopefully realise that it's something we need to know, and learn from so we can respect them for what they did.

Ruth Johnston - January '06
I think it would be fair to mention that many, many young men from southern Ireland fought side by side with the 36th Ulster Division and that at least 2 V C's where awarded to men from the south.

Alison Gibson - January '06
If people would realise it wasn't just the 36th Ulster Divison.... the 10th and 16th were there too, fighting side by side.

When I was 17/18, I interviewed the last veterans of the Somme..... including William McFadzean's nephew, who has the V.C.. I got to hold it.. which was an honour. I also got into Thiepval Wood to do some videoing........ to see the lying shells, etc. It would make your skin creep. I did a lot of research for this - interviewed, James McConville, William Calvert, Tommy Ervine, etc.....

I am 34 now, so I am honoured to be one of the last people to talk to these brave men.

MC - January '06
I'm off to the Somme tomorrow with a group of 60 French students who I teach here in Belgium. My Great Grandfather fought at the Somme and survived - but a shell of the man he had been. I am English but I look at this site from NI - the like of which I haven't seen from english sources - and my heart warms to the open-minded acceptance of the tragedy shown. Catholic or Protestant; German French or British - the guns didn't care and neither should we! The tragedy was felt equally by all families mixed up in the battle.

christopher gallagher - Dec '05
y grandfather was in the Royal Highland Fusiliers and got a bad leg wound (shrappnel) whilst at the battle of the Somme. He came from Glasgow later on he moved to Derry in Northern Ireland Springtown camps. He was married 3 times, twice in Scotland then here he died in 1972 aged 78 years old. So, if anyone can help me find out more about his movments in France I'd appreciate it thank you.

Christopher Gallagher - Nov 05
I was hoping that if anyone here reading would have old footage or films of the great war that might not use again could they give them to me? I'd be delighted and thankful. Just email me and I'll give you my number and address, cheers thank you.

Christopher Gallagher - Nov 05
I'd like to thank Paul Jones for his comments on the German people in WWI. He is right in every way - fair play to him. I've been to Langnark in Belgium... what a moving place. Over 45 thousand dead Germans. 22 thousand boys in one mass grave under 16 years of age.

Christopher Gallagher - October '05
I appeal to the people of ireland to go to france and belgium to see the resting places of irish men who lay down there lives so that we would go on in life read the poems and story's of tom kettle and father doyle and major william redmond. go and see the impressive grave of major redmond and follow the story of him and john meek that story in it self is powerful and moving. private meeks resting place is in benvarden,ballymoney.antrim. trust me and just try it you will be impressed by the bravery.

I would just like to say thank you to the workers with pj and glenn barr in derry who are doing a very good job in bringing Catholics and Protestants together in FOYLE PEACE AND RECONCILIATION PROGRAM. We went to the battle fields in the somme and in flanders fields. What a moving and spectacular trip to make. I'id like to think all the leaders of the group in making it one hell of a week to tracy mc grory, sam starret, rachel duffy, ray gleeson and that belgian man- .lol. - this is a programme I'd recommend to people to contact them.

Paul Jones - July '05
Hey guys and gals,
My Grandfather was in world War I , he had a Mons Star, and fought at Gallipoli and Mesopotamia and so many other places I've forgotten them all, He won an MC in 1918 for an attack on a German machine gun nest at a place called Kerkhove in Belgium. He survived..or I wouldn't be here. But he would never talk about any of it,, and in fact was influential in my mother (his eldest child) becoming a fluent german speaker. He encouraged her to do summer exchange with german school kids and she used to fondly recall happy days on the Rhine boating with two german jewish girls in the early 30s. ..And she always cried when she talked about it because she knew they had been exterminated in Hitler's camps I still have her stamp collection and its mostly german stamps from the 20s and 30s.

So please don't get carried away by tales of 'daring do' for the Empire in WW grandfather was disgusted by the whole thing and forbade any such behaviour , He never went to any war commemoration..not even poppy day..and went out of his way to promote friendly relations with his German and Austrian former adversaries. Although a staunch loyalist he even named my mother 'Joyce Kathleen' to recognise the heroism of , and his love for, his nationalist-minded fellow soldiers and veterans.

Tracey - June '05
Hi there Chris, just read your note I think that I was also in Belgium when you were there - Tracey is my name!

Christopher Gallagher - May 05
I've just got back from Belgium and France and I think more people from the island of Ireland must go and see were the men were killed for us are buried and to see the moving memorials...

I also think we should have a heritage centre or a better memorial for the Irish Natioalists 16th & 10th irish divisoins... people should be told more about the JOHN MEEKE & WILLIAM REDMOND hero of Messines story...

Could someone help me find out more about the 12 men from Barnewall Place in Derry who died at the same time as the Somme?

I had a grandfather who was in the army at the Somme called JOHN GALLAGHER from Glasgow if you find out abything email me ? thank you

Stephanie Farrant - March '05
I think that the war was great because people were scared becase they knew they were going to die but they still went to war for the sake of there country.

Jade - December '04
I love hearing things and learning things about the battle of the somme it makes me want to know more. I am only 13 years of age and yet I love all the information about wars.

In November '04, David O'Gilby wrote to say:
I totaly respect the men of the 36th Ulster Division. they are gone but not forgotton. We will remember them.


Battle of the Somme memorabilia

Private William McFadzean

Battle of the Somme

The Larne Fallen

An Enniskillen VC

Lurgan Men in the Great War

World War I: Soldiers of Down

The Peake Brothers at War 1914-18

Hobbs Family , who lost 3 sons.

Somme Heritage Centre gives detailed accounts of the individual battles.

find out more about the 36th (Ulster) Division at the Somme




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