Saturday, 1 July 2017

Comparing Arras with the Somme

Second Lieutenant Aldridge [X550/1/81]

Sunday 1st July 1917

Today marks the first anniversary of the opening day of the Battle of the Somme in which our local battalions distinguished themselves. One of those Battalions was 2nd Battalion which was to the fore in attacks on Trônes Wood and Guillemont in July and at Gird Trench in October.

The Battalion is currently at English Wood behind the lines near Ypres. The adjutant mentioned to me today that 9675 Lance-Sergeant G Wilson, now attached to to 33rd Trench Mortar Battery, has been awarded the Military Medal and three men have been awarded the Long Service and Good Conduct Medal - 5846 Lance-Sergeant F Selby and 6095 Private J Harris, the third recipient is more unusual - 6229 Company Sergeant Major A F Aldridge who has now been promoted to Second Lieutenant in the Battalion.

Chatting with fellow correspondents the subject of the Somme was raised and it was compared with the recent Battle of Arras. Though the Somme was longer and so bloodier, memory fades and the more recent fatalities are fresher in our minds. We reckoned that the recent battle was, at times, more ferocious than the Somme and the fighting, perhaps, harder, which probably shows that the enemy are more desperate and their position more perilous(1)

Source: X550/3/WD

(1) There were roughly 420,000 British and Imperial casualties on the Somme spread over 141 days, an average of 2,978 per day. At Arras 158,000 casualties were spread over 38 days, an average of 4,150 per day. The forthcoming Third Battle of Ypres would see 260,000 casualties over 103 days, an average of 2,525 per day, thus suggesting that the somewhat forgotten Battle of Arras, wedged as it is between the Somme and Passchendaele was by far the worst in terms of the actual fighting.

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