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Last Updated: Wednesday, 28 June 2006, 19:06 GMT 20:06 UK
The Battle of the Somme: Your stories
The 90th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme is on 1 July 2006.

The Battle of the Somme was one of the most significant campaigns of World War One. The Allied Forces attempted to break through the German front line in northern France, 1916.

There were more than 1,000,000 casualties on both sides, 125,000 soldiers from Britain and the Commonwealth lost their lives.

Some of our readers have sent in their stories and memories of their relatives.

Private Frank Elswood
Private Frank Elswood
Gt grandson: David

Corporal Henry Sweetmore
Cpl Henry Sweetmore
Gt grandson: Mark

Private Terry Whenham
Pte Henry Whenham

Corporal William Tamblin
Cpl William Tamblin
Grandson: John

Corporal Charles Haynes
Cpl Charles Haynes
Grandson: Colin

Driver Ernest Byard
Driver Ernest Byard
Grandson: Simon


Private Frank Elswood

I am taking my mother and two aunts to see the grave of their grandfather. He was killed on the 1st July 1916 - he was part of the first advance on the German fortified trench position known as Heidenkopf.

Private Frank Elswood was a member of the 1st Battalion, Kings Own Royal Lancaster regiment. It is likely he died from his wounds as he was being transported to a treatment centre.

He is buried in Sucrerie. Historians have told me this area was a mass grave. The troops were made to march past these graves on their way to the front line.

It makes me feel very emotional. My family are all very proud and it will be a very important day for my mother and two aunts who will be visiting his grave for the first time.

It is so important that the sacrifices made by our ancestors are acknowledged by future generations.


Corporal Henry Sweetmore

I've just come back from a school trip where we travelled all the way along the Western Front.

Every memorial we went to, I found myself scanning the names looking to see if there was anyone with my surname.

On the last day of our trip, at the last memorial we were to visit, I came across the name - Henry Sweetmore.

I was shocked to see my name but was determined to find out if he was related to me. It turns out, he was my great great great grandfather (he might even be my great great great great grandfather). He was a corporal.

Harry Sweetmore, Henry to his friends, was killed by a shell that landed in Mametz Wood. He was buried in the north west corner of the wood but his grave was lost when hit by a bomb. His body is now in the north west corner of Mametz wood.

Someone who has researched the war sent me a photo and I was amazed to see it was the same photo that is in my grandmother's house - we've just never discussed it.

The experience of being there and finding out that someone from my family was involved has really affected me. The enormity of what happened is unbelievable. It's totally awe-inspiring. I'll never forget the sacrifices made.


Private Terry Whenham

This is my great uncle Henry who died during the Battle of the Somme on 4 August 1916. He died of his wounds following an attack on a German strongpoint the evening before.

On the first day of the Battle of the Somme, my uncle's battalion were in reserve - they were a mile behind the front line and when they were called up, they had to march past all the casualties from the Middlesex regiment.

Henry was one of Kitchener's volunteer army. He joined up 2 days after war was declared. For most of Kitchener's army, the Somme was their first, and last battle. Not so for Henry. His training was rushed through and he took part in the 2nd Battle of Ypres where he was shot in both feet. Following a spell in a hospital in Bristol he returned to the front just in time for the Battle of Loos.

Henry is buried where he died in a small village called Bouzincourt that was a Field Ambulance Station a few miles behind the lines.

It seems that Henry was engaged to a lady called Dolly. After he died, Dolly married Henry's brother, Arthur. Dolly and Arthur are my grandparents. His gravestone reads: "He gave his life so that we might live". Whilst not the original meaning, it is very true as my father, brother and I would not have been born had Henry lived.

Henry's death hit his parents hard as he was the only wage earner in the family. His parents lived in poverty throughout the war and until their death in 1935 and 1946.


Corporal William Tamblin

My grandfather, William Henry Tamblin served in the 6th East Kent regiment, also known as 'the Buffs'. He joined in August 1914.

He was a medical orderly and was at the Somme on the 1 July. He was recommended for and awarded the DCM for his bravery that day.

His captain wrote that he went over the top to rescue a man from another regiment who had a very complicated fracture. "Very cleverly he dragged the man to the trench on a mackintosh sheet and then by fixing a trench board on the parapet was able to draw the man gently into it, thus causing the man no additional agony."

From all the stories I have heard about my grandfather, it seems he was a very caring man. He survived the whole of the war but unfortunately died eleven years before I was born.

My mother who is 92, tells me my personality is very similar to his. That gives me tremendous pride.


Corporal Charles Haynes
My grandfather first tried to join the army in 1915. The recruiting sergeant told him "You've got Duck's Disease". Naively, my grandfather asked what that was. The reply, in broad Black Country bark was: "Yer arse is too close to the bloody floor. Come back when yer older".

Not to be deterred, he went round to a different office and joined the King's Shropshire Light Infantry. He was only 17.

After training as a Lewis gunner, he was sent straight to the Somme. The most bizarre experience he told me about happened after many days of arduous patrols and incursions. He awoke behind his blanket of corrugated iron to the sound of German voices. He had hidden himself so well and was so tired that he had slept through the raid. He had his revolver but nothing else.

He was trapped. He decided to wait for nightfall and make a run for it. He slipped out of his hovel when he thought nobody would see or hear and crawled out into no man's land. He spent the night moving from shell hole to shell hole trying to avoid detection - by either side.

In one shell hole, there were two British bodies. He pushed one of the two dead soldiers into the firing line. The response was immediate, two shots followed by a burst of machine gun fire. He now had to make another decision. His location was known and might draw the attention of more heavy fire including mortars.

He had to make a run for it. He grabbed the other body and decided to use it as a shield. He did not know where he got the strength from but managed, with the help of covering fire, to get back to his own lines.

Far from being congratulated on his escape, he was reprimanded for being in that position in the first place. "So much for mates", he said.

He fought throughout the Somme campaign and was wounded by a shell in 1918, this ended his military career. He finished the war as a corporal in the Labour Corps supervising others who were waiting to be demobbed. He lived until he was 85. My only regret is that I didn't learn more from him while he was alive.


Driver Ernest Byard
This is my grandad Ernest Byard, he was a driver in the Royal Field Artillery.

He fought in the Battle of The Somme and survived the war.

Like so many veterans, he spoke very little of what he had experienced. He used to say no-one would believe what he had seen. Words would not do justice to those events. Also, I think it was a way of protecting those back home from the true horror.

His unique story was that he 'celebrated' his 21st birthday on the 1 July 1916. After the war he always found 21st birthday parties hard to celebrate because of the awful memories he had of the day he became 21.

He always made sure his family remembered the sacrifices so many made during the Great War. As his grandson, I still carry that torch by visiting the Somme 4 to 5 times a year; I am a volunteer guide and take small groups of people so they too can be inspired to remember.

The irony of the Somme is that a place that was witness to such slaughter is now a place of incredible peace.

I shall be at the Somme for the commemorative events, remembering those who lost their lives and giving thanks that my grandad came home.

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