‘I Remember The Somme’

Ahead of Remembrance Day this Wednesday, Proprietor John Gorman has provided a thought provoking piece, ‘I Remember The Somme’.

I Remember           …

I Remember           …

I Remember           The Somme

I Remember           that day … that 1st July 1916

I Remember           waking at dawn

                                sleepy and bleary-eyed,

                                My stomach rising in my throat

                                Threatening to choke me

I Remember           lying there and thinking

                                of what lay ahead

                                it showed in the eyes

                                of every one of us.

I Remember           that dawn …

                                whispering on the horizon in the East

                                the glimmering first streak of that day

                                the stirrings of birds

                                their muted calls

                                the stirrings of soldiers

                                their muttered curses

                                their muttered prayers

I Remember           the trenches

                                miles and miles of and miles of trenches

                               and the stench … of men

                               in the clench of fear

I Remember           the rising of the sun …

                                the sun hot … baking hot … burning hot …

                                beating down and heating up

                                the trenches

                                soldiers gasping

                                soldiers sweating

                                soldiers sweltering

I Remember           the rain …

                                the relentless rain

                                soaking … drenching

                                that had filled the trenches

                                swilling around feet

                                clothes soaking

                                water running down backs

                                running through the trenches

                                filling every crack

                                boots filling with water

                                rotting leather … rotting socks … rotting skin

I Remember           teetering on the edge of panic

                                as we waited for Zero Hour

I Remember           the breakfast

                                the last breakfast for so many men

                                men being cheerful

                                men filled with despair

                                men being fearful

                                men filled with hope

                                men who couldn’t cope

I Remember           the songs echoing through the trenches …

I Remember           we listened transfixed with nostalgia

                                to a lone voice …

“… I wonder who’s kissing her now,
Wonder who’s teaching her how,
Wonder who’s looking into her eyes
Breathing sighs, telling lies …”

I Remember           another soldier singing a beautiful ballad …

“… Roses are shining in Picardy,
In the hush of the silvery dew.
Roses are flow’ring in Picardy,
But there’s never a rose like you …!”

I Remember           a huddled group of Pals

                                filling a corner of a trench

                                singing to raise the morale

                                “… Mademoiselle from Armentieres, Parlez-vous,
                                Mademoiselle from Armentieres, Parlez-vous,
                                Mademoiselle from Armentieres,
                                She hasn’t been kissed for forty years.

                                Hinky-dinky parlez-vous. …”

I Remember           everyone joining in

                                singing full-voiced,

“… What’s the use of worrying?
It never was worth while.
So, pack up your troubles in your old kit bag,
And smile, smile, smile …”

I Remember           Soldiers singing as they waited …

                                waitied for Zero Hour

I Remember           we had waited through the bombardment

                                from nearly 1500 allied guns

                                eight days of continuous bombardment

                                1000’s and 1000s of nerve-shattering  shells

                                blasting … bursting

                                to destroy the enemy defences,

                                But … As we waited …

We didn’t know     that of the allied guns,

                                only 467 were Heavies

                                and just 34 of those

                                were 9.2″ calibre or greater.

We didn’t know     that only 30 tons of explosive

                                would fall per mile of British front.

We didn’t know     that of the 12,000 tons fired

                                two thirds of it was shrapnel

                                and only 900 tons of it

                                would penetrate bunkers.

We didn’t know     that the enemy fortifications

                                were virtually untouched

We didn’t know      that the bombardment had failed

                                that the barbed wire was still intact

                                that the machine-gun nests were still intact

                                that the concrete bunkers were still intact

I Remember           that as I waited 

                                I was thinking of home

                                home with my wife

                                home with my kids

                                home with the dog …

                                fifteen minutes to Zero Hour

I Remember           the padre holding a service

                                and asking God …

                                To watch over us

                                To keep us safe

                                To protect us from harm

I Remember           My prayer as we waited

                                My prayer to survive and get back home

                                ten minutes to Zero Hour

I Remember           the noise of our guns stopped

                                And in that moment of deathly quiet

                                the wind seemed to stop

                                Then …

I Remember           the silence being broken by

                                the fury of a creeping barrage

                                let loose like a wall of roaring sound before us.

                   as the artillery shifted their aim

                                to precede the advance to the enemy lines

                                five minutes to Zero Hour

I Remember           the order to ‘… STAND BY …’

I Remember           standing there … bayonet fixed

                                thinking of home

                                of the corner shop

                                of school

                                of my pal, Harry

                                of the games we played

I Remember           Zero Hour

I Remember           the whistles …

                                the order ‘… LADDERS  …’

I Remember           the order ‘… OVER THE TOP …’

                                Over the Top

                                Over the Top

                                The order ran down our lines

                                Over the Top

                                Do not stop

                                Charge the enemy lines

                                Over the Top

                                Over the Top

                                Watch out for the enemy mines

                                Watch out for the wire

                                Watch our for their fire

                                I went Over the Top

                                mouthing a last-minute prayer

I Remember           that the ground was

                                churned and blasted

                                Ravaged and scarred


I Remember           that in that badly shocked ground

                                there were the Poppies

                                bright … red … gentle … delicate …

I Remember           that the Infantry was to create a gap

                                For the cavalry to charge through to Cambrai and Douai,

I Remember           that the mile of no-man’s land

                                was no longer a neutral zone

                                no longer a no-go zone

                                no longer a no-man’s land

                                It was a land of death

                               of falling and stumbling

                               of shrapnel and fragments

                               of pain and horror

                               of Screaming and Shrieking

                               of Moaning and Pleading and Begging

I Remember          Harry …. my pal … and I

                               walked into a No-man’s land of            

                               dead trees … dead grass … dead earth … men dead

I Remember          Harry …. my pal … and I

                               moving into a world

                                of sodden mud

                                of crushed green

                                of weeping bark

                                of spoilt khaki

                                the one bright colour

                                Was the red of the Poppy

                                and the red of blood

                                the blood of the wounded …

                                the maimed and the spoilt …

                                and the dead … the bloody dead

I Remember           the Barb-wired barriers

                                the minefields bristling with death

I Remember           the terror of the Battlefield

                                the horror of the Battlefield

                                the no more tomorrow Battlefield

I Remember           wave after wave of soldiers

                                row after row of soildiers

                                rank upon rank of soldiers

                                Soldiers full of startling courage

                                Soldiers full of stirring bravery

                                Soldiers full of spurring determination

                                Soldiers shouting …

                                Soldiers yelling …

                                Soldiers calling …

                                Soldiers falling …

                                Soldiers faliing one by one

                                falling like dead leaves

                                falling and lying

                                falling and dying

I Remember           the crying

                                crying in pain … crying for relief

                                crying in despair … crying for release

I Remember           soldiers lying and dying in the no-man’s life

                                lying on the battlefield between life and death

                                so many miles from home

                                lying with life’s blood

                                seeping and drying into the soil

I Remember           hearing a son crying for a mother

                                to come to his side to hold his life

                                in her comforting arms

                                to ease his weeping

                                a mother back home

                                sitting in a window

                                worrying for her son

                                her eyes full of tears

                                her life full of fear

I Remember           a man crying for his wfe

                                a wife standing at the sink

                                drying the dishes

                                her heart full of worry and wishes

I Remember           the my fear

                                the thick bile of fear

                                the solid lump of fear

                                the hard fist of fear

                                welling up in my stomach

                                I tried to fight the fear

                                but the fear rose …

                                rose like vomit …

                                vile, wrenching choking vomit

I Remember           moving forward and the ground

                                churned into a mindless morass

                                by shells exploding and hurling craters

                                up and into battlefields

I Remember           The unimaginable …

                                The indescribable …

                                Hell of The Somme

I Remember           My Pal, Harry …

                                gave a sudden gasp and

                                stopped dead in his tracks

                                stopped dead in the battlefield

                                stopped dead in no-man’s land

I Remember           My Pal, Harry, at my side

                                full of courage

                                full of determination

                                full of bravado

                                Harry … My pal Harry

                                stopping dead

                                dropping dead

                                A bullet had struck Harry

                                at 700 feet a second

                                had hit Harry in the chest

                                Bursting into his body

                                Stopping him dead in his tracks

I Remember           Harry … My pal, Harry

                                gave a half cry

                                Harry … My pal, Harry

                                crumpled and fell

                                fell dead instantly

                                Harry … My pal, Harry

                                no longer at my side

                                stopping and falling

                                Slowly through eternity

                                Harry … My pal, Harry,

                                We went to school together

                                We played football together

                                We grew up together

                                We chased the girls together

                                We worked in the same factory together

                                Harry was my best man

I Remember           I stopped …

                                to help my pal, Harry

                                there was a shout ‘No stopping … Keep moving’

                                I walked on … no time to grieve

                                that would come later

I Remember           the whistles ,,, the shouts … the orders …

                                “… WITHDRAW …” … “… RETURN TO THE TRENCHES …”

I Remember           soldiers turning … stumbling back

                                seeking the safety of the trenches

I Remember           seeing soldiers being thrown forward

                                by the impact of bullets in the back

                                Men falling forward with a desperate cry

                                scrambling back into the trench

                                drenched in emotion

                                My mind filled

                                with unthinkable numbing shock

I Remember           I stood in the trench

                                as they brought in the first body

                                it was lowered gently  … carefully

                                the battledress bloodied with

                                a growing dark red lifeless stain

                                Then …

I Remember           a second body …

                                Then another body …

                                And another

                                And another …

                                body after body

I Remember           the trench filling with bodies …

                                too many dead bodies

                                Dead soldiers

                                Dead fathers

                                Dead Sons

                                Dead Brothers

                                Dead Pals

I Remember           hearing the cries

                                of the wounded and the dying

                                being stretchered in

                                the wounded human wrecks

                                gaping and torn

I Remember           looking along the trench

                                seeing desperately few soldiers

                                who had returned from the battle

                                Soldiers who had marched to the Front

                                singing their hearts out

“… It’s a long way to Tipperary,
It’s a long way to go.
It’s a long way to
It’s a long way to Tipperary,
To the sweetest girl I know …”

I Remember           boots beating time

                                arms swinging in their prime

                                faces full of bravado

                                voices full-throated

                                men strong-hearted

I Remember           echoes of families on quaysides

                                singing songs of encouragement

                                songs of  hope and homecoming

“… Goodbye Piccadilly,
Farewell Leicester Square,
It’s a long, long way to Tipperary,
But my heart’s right there …”

I Remember           as I stood there

                                in the tear-shocked quiet

                                of the trench

                                not a whisper

                                not even a the singing of a bird

I Remember           I couldn’t find any words

                                to express my senses

                                My eyes blighted by the sights

                                of the battering in the battlefield

                                The taste of Bitterness

                                stinging my mouth

                                that taste of loss

                                that taste of death

I Remember           I only had tears to give

                                hurting … searing … burning …

                                ripping … tearing … scarring … blurting


I Remember           the feeling of loss

                                the dreadful … dreadful … dreadful loss

                                the loss of all reason

                                the loss of any purpose

                                the loss of so many Pals

                                the 1st Newfoundland Regiment

                                had marched out with 801 men

                                only 68 had staggered back

                                leaving 500 dead 

                                the Irish Brigade

                                was all but wiped out to the man

I Remember           the count on that first day of The Somme

                                The British suffered …

                                19,240 dead,

                                35,493 wounded,

                                2,152 missing

                                585 taken prisoners

                                The Allied forces

                                had only penetrated a total of 6 miles

                                for a total loss of 57,470 men

                                20% of the entire British fighting force

                                had been killed on that day

                                On that awful … dreadful … day

                                That first day of July 1916


                                for the rest of time

                                church bells will chime

                                Flags will fly at half mast

                                The Last Post will sound

                                And at the going down of every sun

                                We will remember everyone of them

                                Everyone who fought and died

                                At the Battle of the Somme

I Remember           …

I Remember           …


I Remember