Bruce Arnold

Critic of Public Affairs, writing about art, theatre, music and politics

The Somme and Modern Memory

The Battle of the Somme was part of a major contribution by Irishmen, both Catholic and Protestant, to the British Imperial war effort during the First World War. It came midway through the campaign in Europe, and was itself a catastrophe. At that point in history, the biggest British army ever sent into battle – indeed the biggest army ever, anywhere – achieved a few miles of advance, here and there along a fifteen mile front, at a cost of 60,000 casualties, sixty per cent of them officers, forty per cent other ranks.