Massive loss of life remembered

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A service commemorating the 100th anniversary of the World War 1 Battle of the Somme on the Western Front in France was held in Timaru on Sunday.
Dignitaries joined the public for a service at the Timaru Botanic Gardens in Queen St.
The formalities included the unveiling of an information panel to commemorate the anniversary and the South Canterbury troops involved in it.
Keynote speaker Timaru Boys’ High School rector Nick McIvor delivered a speech on the Battle of the Somme and emphasised the huge loss of life and sacrifices made by New Zealanders and South Canterbury at the time.
According to records, in 1916 the Allies’ major attack took place at the Somme River.
It began with a massive artillery bombardment of 1.5 million shells, the sound of which could be heard in southern England.
As the German forces were deeply dug in, much of the artillery fire proved ineffective.
On July 1, 100,000 British and Dominion troops attacked; by nightfall 20,000 were dead and more than 40,000 were wounded.
The Battle of the Somme involved three main pushes by the Allies over 141 days. The third push began on September 15 and the New Zealand Division went into action around Flers.
On September 20, the second Canterbury Battalion mounted another attack, taking a section of trench known as Goose Alley.
Fierce German counterattacks threatened the position but were beaten back at a heavy cost. Of 541 men engaged from the battalion, 249 were casualties.
The battalion attacked again on October 1, against an area known as the Circus, taking all their objectives.
Advancing through machine-gun fire meant casualties were again heavy. They held their position until they were relieved on October 4.
During the battle, the New Zealand Division fought for 23 consecutive days, the longest sustained battle it would fight in the war. The price was heavy – more than half its soldiers were casualties, almost equalling the cost of the whole eight-month Gallipoli campaign. More than half of those killed have no known grave.
The Battle of the Somme resulted in about 1.2 million casualties.
The Allies advanced 12km.