In England during this week we rememberThe Battle of the Somme. A battle which took almost 20,000 lives in the first day.
The following are not my images. William Orpen fought in World War 1 and knew The Somme. Paul Nash was a famous war artist. They knew The Somme after war had ravaged it. Eugene Boudin knew it as a tranquil place.
Eugene Boudin . Saint Valery-sur-Somme 1891
Paul Nash . Battlelines Redrawn
“Imagine a wide landscape flat and scantily wooded and what trees remain blasted and torn, naked and scarred and riddled The ground for miles around furrowed into trenches, pitted with yawning holes in which water lies still and cold or heaped in mounds of earth, tangles of rusty wire, tin plates, stakes, sandbags and all the refuse of war.”
“The rain drives on, the stinking mud becomes more evilly yellow, the shell holes fill up with green-white water, the roads and tracks are covered in inches of slime, the black dying trees ooze and sweat and the shells never cease.”
William Orpen in his book The Onlooker on La Boisselle
“The great mine at La Boisselle was a wonderful sight. One morning I was wandering about the old battlefield, and I came across a great wilderness of white chalk—not a tuft of grass, not a flower, nothing but blazing chalk; apparently a hill of chalk dotted thickly all over with bits of shrapnel. I walked up it, and suddenly found myself on the lip of the crater. I felt myself in another world. This enormous hole, 320 yards round at the top, with sides so steep one could not climb down them, was the vast, terrific work of man. Imagine burrowing all that way down in the belly of the earth, with Hell going on overhead, burrowing and listening till they got right under the German trenches—hundreds and hundreds of yards of burrowing. And here remained the result of their work, on the earth at least, if not on humanity. The latter had disappeared; but the great chasm, with one mound in the centre at the bottom, and one skull placed on top of it, remained. They had cut little steps down one of its sides, and had cleared up all the human remains and buried them in this mound. That one mound, with the little skull on the top, at the bottom of this enormous chasm, was the greatest monument I have ever seen to the handiwork of man.”
William Orpen La Boisselle 1917
The Somme: A Clear Day. View from the British trenches opposite La Boisselle, showing German front line and mine craters.
The crater at La Boisselle, Somme
La Boisselle 2013
Images from http://www.battlelines-redrawn.co.uk/
In memory of lost young men in the Battle of The Somme , 100 years ago, 1916