One hundred years ago today the battle of the Somme began. The first of July 1916 was the worst day in the history of the British Army with 19,000 dead and 38,000 wounded for advances of between 1 and seven miles. It is quite startling to think that on that day Britain suffered higher casualties than the Suez, Falklands, Northern Ireland, Gulf, Afghanistan and Iraq conflicts combined. The battle of the Somme was one of many such battles in World War One or the Great War as it was known. During four months of the Somme offensive 420,000 British, British Empire and Dominion troops, 195,000 French and 650,000 German troops were killed. The offensive was finally called off in November 1916.
Thousands of soldiers from Leytonstone served in the First World War and many did not return. You can find out more about these men and where they lived at the Leytonstone War Memorial Project.
Like many villages, towns and cities across the country London Borough of Waltham Forest held a service to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the first day of the Somme. The service was attended by the Leader of the Council, Mayor and members of the public. The Western Front Association provided a display of artefacts from the period and blew whistles used to signal the men to go over the top. The Vestry House Museum provided additional documentary material.
Words and pictures by Martin Sepion