It is 30 years since the S&G witnessed this remarkable documentary about the Somme. Presented by Rumpole himself, the brilliant Leo McKern, it does what documentaries seldom do these days: presents the facts and lets the emotion of the situation speak for itself. On this day of remembrance it is well worth an hour of your time.
The story of the Newfoundlanders at Beaumont Hamel is, for me, the stand-out tale. Two years after first watching this documentary, my father and I travelled the length of the Western Front by car. In the old trenches at Beaumont Hamel I felt something underfoot and lifted it out of the grass. It was a .303 bullet case, trodden on many decades earlier and filled with wet earth. Today it remains in pride of place in the S&G’s memento case – pictured above.
At 7:28am tomorrow, the UK will hold a national two minute silence to mark the moment the first wave of soldiers went over the top in the Battle of the Somme.
It will follow the King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery firing guns from Parliament Square for 100 seconds and a reading in Westminster Abbey. Whistles will be blown to mark the end of the two minute silence after the 7:30am chimes of Big Ben.
A National Commemorative Service will also take place at Manchester Cathedral and will be followed by a people’s procession through Manchester to Heaton Park. Hopefully these events will be worthy of a commemoration of such magnitude.
Across all the affected countries – Germany, France, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, India, Bermuda, Africa, China – commemorations will also no doubt be held. Long should we all remember.