Help us to remember every soldier who fought during the Battle of the Somme

Roll call of the 1st Battalion, Lancashire Fusiliers, on the afternoon of 1 July 1916. IWM Q734

Roll call of the 1st Battalion, Lancashire Fusiliers, on the afternoon of 1 July 1916. IWM Q734

The Battle of the Somme began on 1 July 1916 and continued for five months, with over 1 million casualties. With one year until centenary commemorations begin, Lives of the First World War needs your help complete the life stories of every soldier who served during the battle.

Here is the story of just one of the thousands of individuals who took part.

 

Kenneth was born in Ireland in 1890. Before the war, he worked on a ranch in California and returned home to join the Manchester Regiment. He arrived in France in February 1916 and served as a Second Lieutenant with the 17th Battalion. Kenneth kept a diary during this time, and powerfully captured the anticipation the night before the start of the Battle of the Somme:

“Tonight in the dark we assemble – brigades and brigades and more and more brigades – tomorrow in the pale dawn we go over the lid.”

Kenneth Callan Macardle. IWM HU 35936

Kenneth Callan Macardle. IWM HU 35936

  • 1 July 1916

On the first day of the battle, Kenneth’s unit attacked the village of Montauban. After the first wave of the 30th Division advanced at 7.30am, Kenneth and his comrades followed an hour later, moving through the captured German first line.  He was one of the first to enter Montauban at around 10.00am. His men took up a position on the east of the village and remained there, despite intensive shelling and heavy casualties, for 48 hours. In his journal, written on 6 July, Kenneth noted that for 60 hours he got no sleep.

“The trench became littered with dead and wounded. We are about 400 strong today – we who went in 800.”

Whilst they achieved their objectives, this came at a high cost – as Kenneth wrote in his diary:

“The trench became littered with dead and wounded. We are about 400 strong today – we who went in 800.”

Tragically, he was killed just 2 days after writing this. Around midnight on 8-9 July his unit was ordered to attack Trônes Wood. Now in command of A Company, Kenneth led his men to the top of the wood where he was killed in the confused fighting towards late afternoon. His body was never recovered and today he is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial.

 

Did you have a relative who served on the Somme? Can you help us complete the Life Stories by uploading photos, linking to evidence and sharing anecdotes?

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