News of the disaster at the Somme is slow to reach British civilians. The newspapers are full of upbeat reports on progress made and prisoners captured; British casualties are described as light. But the scale of death’s harvest gradually makes itself known to people at home. Among the first to bring news of how many have died are wounded men who have been evacuated home to recuperate.
Accrington in Lancashire is one of many places to have sent a Pals Battalion to the Western Front. But as a hospital train passes through the town a wounded soldier calls out that the Accrington Pals have been been wiped out. Panicked families converge on the mayor’s house demanding news, but he has nothing for them. Only later will they learn that of the 700 men from Accrington who attacked on the 1st of July, 230 were killed and 350 wounded in just half an hour.
Then postcards telling relatives that their loved ones have died begin to arrive. Or notes saying that their sons or husbands are missing, presumed dead. The newspapers remain upbeat, talking of how well the battle is going and praising the resolve of British troops. But their inside pages start to fill up with pages listing the dead or carrying tributes to local men who had fallen.
images from these two BBC artices: