As our friend Derb reminded us a decade ago;
When the barrage liftsTo understand the British military from Churchill to today - you need to know the Somme. As Churchill said,
... , July 1, is the ... anniversary of the first day of the Battle of the Somme, the bloodiest day in the history of the British Army. They took 60,000 casualties, of whom nearly twenty thousand were killed.
The Tommies were to get out of their trenches and advance across No Man's Land towards the enemy trenches. This maneuver was to be preceded by an artillery barrage on the enemy lines.
The following is from Paul Fussell's 1975 classic The Great War and Modern Memory:
Every day still the Times and the Telegraph print the little "In Memoriam" notices — "Sadly missed," "Always in our thoughts," "Never forgotten," "We do miss you so, Bunny" — the military ones dignified by separation from the civilian. There are more on July 1 than on other days, and on that date there is always a traditional one:
9th AND 10th BNS., K.O.Y.L.I. — To the undying memory of the Officers and Men of the above Battalions who fell in the attack on Fricourt (Somme) on July 1, 1916. "Gentlemen, when the barrage lifts."B.H. Liddell Hart, who was in the 9th Battalion of the King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry, explains. Just before the Somme attack, "the officers assembled in the headquarters mess, in a typical Picardy farmhouse. Recent strain between the commanding officer and some of the others led to an embarrassing pause when the senior company commander was called on to propose a toast to the C.O. On a sudden inspiration, he raised his glass and gave the toast with the words: 'Gentlemen, when the barrage lifts'."
The battalion attacked with some 800 men. Twenty-four hours later its strength was 80 men and four officers.
..it was at Somme, the hinge of popular opinion on the nature of war changed and forever altered our perceptions of war.A great video summary from the BBC.