YEP Says: We are grateful to Robert and his fellow Leeds Pals

THE battle of the Somme seems like ancient history, a different age. In truth, it isn't. It was only a few generations ago that young men went to battle knowing they faced almost certain death in France.

Friday, 1st July 2016, 6:49 am
Updated Thursday, 25th August 2016, 5:48 pm
Library filer dated 25/09/1916 of British troops negotiating a trench as they go forward in support of an attack on the village of Morval during the Battle of the Somme. The date of July 1, 1916, is remembered as the bloodiest day in the history of the British Army. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Sunday June 25, 2006. The Battle of the Somme began at 7.30am that day, and by the following morning 19,240 British soldiers had died. The battle continued for more than four months, leaving a final casualty tally for all sides of well over a million. See PA story WAR Somme History. Photo credit should read: PA.

If you think those victims weren’t real people like you or I, read today’s Yorkshire Evening Post.

Robert Tolson went missing on July 1, 1916, the first day of the battle exactly 100 years ago.

His wife and family hoped against hope. Confusion reigned. Days later he was declared missing and, more days later, he was pronounced dead.

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A photo of Whiteley Tolson (left) and his family.

The uncertainty that his loved ones faced is palpable. Eventually, they learned the truth, that he had died after having being shot.

Sadly, Robert was far from unique. Leeds Pals, of which Robert was part, suffered 500 casualties that day. Some 21,000 British soldiers died and 35,000 were injured on in the first 24 hours.

It puts out modern day troubles into context.

A photo of Whiteley Tolson (left) and his family.

Yet it is also to this country’s credit that events to mark the brutal conflict of 100 years ago have led to a reawakening of the debt of gratitude that current generations owe to their forebears – and this continues to be illustrated by very localised memorial events across Leeds and Yorkshire to remember the specific sacrifices made by individual communities.