Barnsley soldier's harrowing account of Battle of the Somme released

Battle of the Somme
Battle of the Somme
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A Barnsley soldier's harrowing first-hand account of the first day of the Battle of the Somme has been made public.

It is among 500 mainly hand-written experiences of the battle on July 1, 1916, released by the Imperial War Museum to give an insight into the bloodiest day in British military history.

Almost 60,000 British and Commonwealth soldiers were killed or wounded and there would be more than a million casualties on both sides by the end of the 141-day offensive, 100 years ago on Friday, November 18.

The first-hand accounts, written more than half a century on from the conflict for an author writing about the battle, have been donated to the Imperial War Museum and will be added to its online records of British soldiers who fought on the battlefield in Northern France.

Anthony Richards, head of documents and sound at the Imperial War Museum, said: "It covers people from all sorts of backgrounds, under age soldiers...one who even changed his name in order to get in.

"They cover all the different experiences on the first day. Most of them cover the feeling of being in the trench, getting ready to go over the top.

"But then some people talk about being wounded straight away, others talk about being captured and taken as a prisoner of war, others talk about actually reaching the enemy trenches and having hand-to-hand combat. You get the complete cross-section really.

"All these accounts were written in the late 1960s and this was 50 years after the events they are talking about.

"But the vast majority are still very, very detailed and I think that shows you how important those events were to these people that they can remember really small details.

Lance Corporal Charles Bartram, a mine worker from Darfield, Barnsley, was 23 when the battle started.

He said: "My officer then had another look over the top, it was his last as an explosive bullet blew half his head off, we were both there a long time there was only room for two of us and the gun. I had sent word to his senior officers, a corporal arrived to take over.

"Zero hour dismantled all ready to go over, then the word came to retire. We retired through the tunnel back to the reserve trench, most of the time on our hands and knees over dead and dying. From that moment all my religion died, after that journey all my teaching and belief in God had left me - never to return."

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