Culture Magazine

Postcard from the Somme

By Ashleylister @ashleylister
Postcard from the SommeThe Lochnagar Crater at La Boiselle
This crater is preserved as a reminder of the first day of the Somme offensive on 1st July 1916.  I have pinched this photo off a friend so I hope he doesn't mind me using it here, but honestly, after raiding stands and stands of postcards while in Arras and the Somme, I couldn't find any that really conveyed how I felt that day, visiting sites of such bloodshed and trauma and hearing how each event came about.Postcard from the Somme
This crater which is 200ft across and is 90ft deep was created by two charges of ammonal of a combined weight approximating 54,000lbs.  These charges along with 16 others were blown by allied forces at 28 minutes past 7 on the morning of 1 July 1916 as a precursor to the start of the offensive.  The debris from an explosion like this could have risen up to 4000 feet in the air.

Standing on the cusp and seeing the memorials of soldiers lost on that day dotted around the perimeter was somewhat eerie.  Both sides were made up of frightened young men doing as their governments told them to do for a small about of pay and a great amount of danger.  Seeing how many died in their early twenties, seeing their faces on signs alongside graters, seeing Thiepval memorial in its enormity dedicated to the missing, it's overwhelming.I bought a postcard on our tour round the Somme remembering this theme was approaching.  It shows two uniformed skeletons hiding out in a trench.  Somehow it felt wrong to send it home.  It seemed wrong to do something to make my words special and possibly cheapen the history that I was learning.  So it has sat in my vanity case since then.  What I did buy was a poem by Henri Meschonnic called 'Infiniment à venir' which essentially means Much to Come.  I'm not all the way through yet as the one poem occupies an entire book and is inspired by the portraits inside the museum of WW1 'l'Historial de la Grande Guerre.'  I'm working on translating it for myself - buying someone else's translations never feel right.  I sometimes wonder if that is why I dislike 'Girl with the Dragon Tattoo' so much.  Because some of the magic is lost in interpretation.  However, I've had a go and here is an extract from 'Infiniment à venir,' the memories of which stick with me, longer than a postcard ever will.wartotal wareverything is warwe do not rememberit's all this painthat is our historyand that it is not usbut our historythat leads us

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