Sunday, June 24, 2007


Today in History - Battle of the Somme begins

It was on this day, 24th June, 1916, that the Battle of the Somme began.

It was one of the most significant battles of the First World War and was the scene of immense bravery from both Irish unionists and nationalists who fought alongside each another with great distinction.

The men were given proper credit for their courage from the unionist community, but it has long been taboo for nationalists to speak warmly of Irish participation in WW1 due to other notable events which occurred in the island at this point in time.

Thankfully in recent years that attitude has changed and the Irish state has begun to acknowledge the sacrifices made by Irish people in the war. In total, 25,000 Irishmen were to perish in the Battle of the Sommes.

The 36th Ulster Division and the 16th Irish Division lost many men in the fighting but showed great heroism throughout.

The 16th and the 36th divisions together

The First World War was a ghastly business and so many brave soldiers were treated like pawns by heartless generals. Truly it was indeed a case of "Lions led by donkeys".

I'll leave you with this song from The Fureys called 'The Green Fields of France' which tells the story of a young man of 19 named Willie McBride who fell during the war. There was actually a boy of 19 in the war named Willie McBride, an Irish lad, who met his end at the Battle of the Somme. This song has a haunting beauty to it and is the best version of the song I've heard. Take a listen and remember all those poor souls who lie in the green fields of France.


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