Soldier's letter:
first day of the Battle of the Somme
IWM 66/144/1

... after daybreak. Whilst filing along the main communication trench we had to pass a gloomy sight 2 or 3 poor figures mutilated by a shell.

Death takes no form more terrible to look upon than when a shell has burst right in a trench - it generally means mutilation.

But we got to our own station where we simply had to wait until Z[ero] hour sh[oul]d arrive (like a Cambridge Boat race)

The day was going to be one of the sunniest that summer brings: the fields even up to edges of the trenches were wonderfully beautiful & rich with flowers. The larks were singing like mad - the louder the bombardment. Our guns had been going all week but about 6.30 they burst out into their loudest & most concentrated ROAR. I soon got the message that 7.30 was the hour. Strangely enough my spirits were beginning to rise more & more. I felt jovial hilarious & an absorbing excitement made me almost long for Z[ero] hour to be up & over the top - one of a victorious sweeping army.

We (above) My company were not in the first line but had to follow the first battalions: dividing into small bodies to sweep up & consolidate the first 3 lines of Boche trenches - not so difficult or dangerous a job as some. Everything had been worked out mathematically before hand. Zero came & 3 min[ute]s after I swarmed the trench ladder followed by a party whom I conducted to their place of entry in the Boche lines.

On the left the Boches Gordons were going over as on parade.

Occasionally a shell w[oul]d burst & some poor fellow w[oul]d be torn asunder. Men dropped out just as you read in books or see in pictures: in the midst of the great tumult there was a strange silence somehow.

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