1st July 1916

Battle of the Somme begins

The French and British army attacked on the River Somme in France. This was the main Allied offensive of the year and involved a number of Irish regiments. The Somme was to be the first major battle for Kitchener's new volunteer divisions and the 36th (Ulster) Division, played a major role in the battle. Later in the campaign, the 16th (Irish) Division joined the offensive.

The attack was preceded by a week-long artillery bombardment of the German line. However, the Allied barrage was not as effective as anticipated and in the first few days of the attack, 5,500 of the Ulster Division had been killed or wounded. Four posthumous Victoria Crosses were awarded for acts of bravery. Two of the recipients were Private William McFadzean, Royal Irish Rifles, who threw himself on a live grenade in a crowded trench to save his fellow soldiers and Lieutenant Geoffrey Cather, Royal Irish Fusiliers who died rescuing men from 'No Man's Land' under constant gun fire. The offensive would go on to last over four months, by then the Allied armies had advanced about ten miles and lost a total of 600,000 men.

First World War, Military & Policing
Whistle used to signal men in the trenches to attack during WWI.
Royal Ulster Rifles Museum