This months MuZiK Klub release is a Battle Of The Somme centenary special edition. I was ging to say that a pound or two from each release would go to the British Legion but I didn’t cause apparently that would be illegal. Anyway, it’s a great looking release with some even better music and a poppy red vinyl disc.
I was going to write a blog about the Battle Of The Somme on July 1st but then there was so much of it on the news that I thought it would be overkill. So I’m just going to say this.
Look at this picture:
Each square with a blue number is about the size of a football pitch and each number represents a dead soldiers body in that square. This map was created by the War Graves Commision after the area was being cleared up so bodies that were hastily buried in the field could be exhumed and reinterred in a War Graves Cemetery. These numbers represent just the bodies that are still intact after all the battles and fights in this area. The numbers would be a lot higher but for the constant shelling and fighting over the ground as so many bodies disappeared due to this being an artillery war.
If you look at the area South East of High Wood (Box 4 S) the numbers are very high. If you look at the 4 squares of High Wood you will notice no numbers at all. This is because in those squares the fighting was so intense that it had it’s own body density map. The number in those four squares alone should be over 8000. In fact, the carnage was so bad in High Wood that they just fenced it off and left it. You still can’t go in there to this day because you would literally be stepping on a dead body with each step you took and there is also so much unexploded ordnance.
I think, for me, this image sums up what happened on the Somme more than any other picture I’ve seen of dead soldiers and mud (because these pictures are all censored, not by what they are showing but by what they are not showing; amounts and faces). Where are the real pictures of what happened?
All of this clear up and devastation would have been photographed in great detail at the time by the Army. Look at the detail of the map. Today, the powers that be deem these pictures unsuitable for us to see. I think there was a book released between the wars but it was pulled and is long out of print. Does anyone know about this book? I only know about it because my professor at college told me that it once existed.
If you have a good enough reason, you can apply to the Imperial War Museum (it’s where they are kept) to see these images but I don’t think you are ever allowed to tell anyone what you’ve seen.
There is always a strange discrepency between the horrors we are told about and the photographic imagery we actually get to to see. There isn’t much of it. Think about it, it was a four year war that killed millions of people. The sheer scale of the horror is always talked up and we see the memorials but the photographic evidence is not there to support it, only piecemeal bits mainly photgraphed by the men themselves and nearly always with faces obscured. We are told about how grim it was but was it in fact so grim that we shouldn’t be trusted to see it? Probably.
It’s horrible what a bullet or a piece of shrapnel does to a person. Maybe it’s out of respect for those lying there but I suspect it has more to do with keeping us believeing in honour and patriotism and dying for your country when the need arises. That was what I felt when I watched the drama unfold at the Thiepval Memorial.
I’d prefer to think that I can be trusted to be shown the pictures rather than have a gun fired in honour over my dead body.