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Gerald Gliddon’s reflections on the Somme


Gerald Gliddon is a leading authority on Great War history. He is the author of Somme 1916: A Battlefield Companion, and indispensable reference guide for anyone wanting to understand this theatre of war. He is also the author of the VCs of The First World War series, including VCs of The Somme, which tells the stories of 51 men who received the highest military honour for their bravery on the battlefield. Here he reflects on a few of the aspects that make the Battle of the Somme so significant.


The Somme was a battle which included the wasteful and pointless use of cavalry, a method of warfare left over from the previous century. There were advances in weaponry, however. The use of aircraft in battle when flying was in its infancy. The use of the very efficient machine gun as a killing machine. The first appearance of tanks in battle and the use of gas as a weapon. The ability to make ground to air communication. All of these things made fighting on the Somme unique.


At the end of June and before the first of July troops and officers were encouraged to empty their pockets and to have a damn good meal which for so many of them became their ‘last supper’. Men were more than aware of what was to happen to them and were seemingly resigned to their fate.

Family links

My father was buried alive in August 1916 at Bazentin le Petit and if he hadn’t been dugout and saved then I would not be penning this note to you nearly a hundred years later. My uncle Maurice was not a Somme man but he did mention in his letters home (which I still have) that he saw the flowers on Raymond Asquith’s grave (the prime minister’s son) and they were from individuals and organisations from right across the world.

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