The Barrage Lifts

After forty five years it’s time to re-wire!

And the start of my re-wirement coincides with the centenary of the first day of the Battle of the Somme. Tomorrow – July 1st 1916 at 7.30 am  – 100 years ago. When I started teaching in 1970 that day, and that war – that cataclysmic break in human history – were still within the living memory of millions.

This short film is from the Imperial War Museum.

And the National Archive announce that all British Army diaries for units on the Western Front during the First World War are now available to read online or download from their website.

More on that – and rewirement and everything else – ahead.

I have neglected this blog in the last few crazy busy weeks of the school year.

So many stories to tell.

But now – perhaps, in Eliot’s words, – there will be time …

There will be time, there will be time

To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet;

There will be time to murder and create,

And time for all the works and days of hands

That lift and drop a question on your plate;

Time for you and time for me,

And time yet for a hundred indecisions,

That lift and drop a question on your plate;

Time for you and time for me

And time yet for a hundred indecisions,

And for a hundred visions and revisions,

Before the taking of a toast and tea.

The Thiepval Memorial commemorates the 72,000 British and Commonwealth soldiers who died at the Somme and for whom there no known graves.

The Thiepval Memorial commemorates the 72,000 British and Commonwealth soldiers who died at the Somme and for whom there are no known graves.

When the Barrage Lifts

In his seminal work, The Great War and Modern Memory, (1975) Paul Fussell explains the meaning of this toast:

Every day still the Times and the Telegraph print the little “In Memoriam” notices — “Sadly missed,” ” Always in our thoughts,” “Never forgotten,” “We do miss you so, Bunny” — the military ones dignified by separation from the civilian. There are more on July 1 than on other days , and on that date there is always a traditional one:

9th And 10th BNS., K.O.Y.L.I.-To the undying memory of the Officers and Men of the above Battalions who fell in the attack on Fricourt (Somme) on July 1, 1916.

“Gentlemen, when the barrage lifts.”

B. H. Liddell Hart, who was in the 8th Battalion of the King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry, explains. Just before the Somme attack,the officers assembled in the headquarters mess, in a typical Picardy farmhouse. Recent strain between the commanding officer and some of the others led to an embarrassing pause when the senior company commander was called on to propose a toast to the C.O. On a sudden inspiration, he raised his glass and gave the toast with the words: “Gentlemen, when the barrage lifts.”

The battalion attacked With some 800 men. Twenty-four hours later its strength was 80 men and four officers. And because of the annihilation of the Ulster Division on the same date, “1 July,” as Brian Gardner notes, “is still a day of deep mourning in Ulster.” In remote, self-contained towns like “Akenfield” it is Armistice Day that draws every one to church. By contrast, says, Ronald Blythe, “Good Friday is barely observed at all, everybody playing football then.” (The Great War and Modern Memory, 315-316

1 Comment

  1. Dennis:

    101 years ago today. And when we were growing up it was in living memory. We must never forget. But I’m not sure what action that means we must take today except trying to avoid catastrophic war. My great grandfather served in that war. My parents said he never recovered from it and it stayed with him his whole life.

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