Documentary – First Day of the Battle of the Somme

This is an excellent documentary and embraces the terrible reality of the slaughter in  opening of the big push.  I watched about 10 years ago and remained unprepared for the overwhelming scale of the losses and horror faced by the volunteer army.

My research has taken me to these locations and I’m now too familiar with the experiences of our forebears.  Seeing this portrayal is now a raw experience, but incredibly worthwhile.

The programme is especially relevant as it features events of 22nd Manchesters, especially Captain Charlie May and Sergeant Richard Tawney.

I’ve read a little about Richard Tawney and feel he was a giant if his generation.  I also recommend Gerry Harrison’s book on Charlie’s diaries.

The success at Mametz (Spoiler Sorry) was emulated by 16th, 17th, 18th & 19th Battalions, next door at Montauban.  21st were also with 22nd Bttn at Mametz, with 20th nearby at Fricourt.  That’s @ 7,000 men from one City!  I wish this had been mentioned, as they all gained their objectives, at tremendous loss.  Albert Andrews features in the film and he was 19th Manchesters – not 22nd.  Valid criticism, but still immense appreciation for the makers of this film.  Greater respect to the men – on both sides of the line – who fought, fell or survived on 1st July 1916.

2 thoughts on “Documentary – First Day of the Battle of the Somme

  1. John Pinkstone

    Great account of this movie on the battle of the Somme and have met personally the Bell family on a visit to the Somme commemoration in Montauban at the 100th. How strange that these events United us as families after such hardship. And through the personal experiences of the Manchester Pals. Once together as a force fighting an alleged common foe. The most poignant part of the movie for me was the scene showing Albert Andrews allowing a German soldier to save his life for at least that moment he faced his enemy. A mutual respect was known amongst the trenches in both sides and other regiments made famous for encounters where the enemy were United in playing games and celebrating events like Xmas. The Generals not happy at this comradeship sending orders to make them fight.
    But the scene with Albert Andrews reminds me of another story in his diaries the recounts the death of Private’s Baillie and Robinson who served with him in the 19th Battalion. Baillie was my Grandfathers first cousin and one of 3 brothers who died and never returned from WW1 in France and Belgium. They had worked together at Lancashire and Yorkshire Railways. Baillie and his 2nd brother who worked there are remembered kn the memorial at Victoria station. And Robinson was close friend.
    Albert Andrews recounts when they were both killed in his diaries. A brief mention is made of the event in the regimental diaries but the movie helps keep their memory alive through the connection to this actors portrayal of a real life character from this movie who showed some humanity to his fellow man.
    In 1981 on my Grandfathers first and only return to the Somme we found his cousin and friend buried side by side over looking the Somme at the going down of the sun. It was a fitting reunion to help him bring closure and only wish my Father who was alive when this movie was made could have seen it to see they are not forgotten those that do not grow old.
    Brothers in arms.
    In memory of William Henry Pinkstone, Baillie, Robinson, Andrews and Bell families.
    May the Rest In Peace.

    1. 8055bell Post author

      Hi John,
      I can’t believe it’s 5 years since we met in Montauban. I’ve visited numerous times, yet sharing the Centenary with other folk with the same heritage was extremely memorable. Interesting to see notes on your wider family experience. You’d be very welcome to have a guest post on the site.
      I hope to wander up from Maricourt to Montauban on the 106th anniversary. May not make 07.30 start for the 19th but may see you there, or maybe 2026?


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