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Heroes of the Somme

wwi_soldier_receiving_the_victoria_cross

The different roles played by soldiers, politicians, leaders and commanders during World War I's Battle of the Somme give us valuable insight into the politics and realities of war. But perhaps more than this, the tales of the ordinary Tommy or commanding officer give us an idea of the extent of their bravery.

During the First World War a total of 628 Victoria Crosses (VCs) were awarded, of which fifty-one of these were for the Battle of the Somme. Awarded for valour ‘in the face of the enemy’, this highest British military honour is for bravery above and beyond the call of duty while in a life-threatening situation. The individual stories behind these medals are heart-warming and at times poignant, especially as many soldiers did not survive to receive their medal. Awarded to any rank of soldier across all theatres of war, the list of VC winners is a roll of honour unlike any other, and reflects the diverse nature of the conflict.

There were other heroes, however, of a more controversial manner. Lord Kitchener was one of the main protagonists. Appointed Secretary of State for War by Prime Minister Asquith early on in the conflict, he began a huge recruitment campaign, with his own face on posters across the country. Along with Field Marshall Haig, another senior officer in the War, Kitchener argued for the use of the BEF (British Expeditionary Force), and many of his tactical suggestions were proved right. Kitchener was killed by the sinking of HMS Hampshire in 1916.

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