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.
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.
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.
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.