Fifty seven thousand, almost twice the capacity of Derby County’s IPRO stadium, were cut down by a combination of machine gun fire and shelling. Of the wounded, twenty thousand died on that first day.
It was the day when fourteen men from Belper perished.
It was the greatest loss of life in one day during the whole of the First World War that the town endured.
Much has been written about the events on the western front, but what of the families, relatives and friends at home who had their lives torn apart by the death of a son, a husband, a father, a friend, a lover?
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The mood in Britain had changed since those first optimistic days in August 1914 when everyone expected, including the Germans, that the conflict would be over by Christmas.
Almost two years into the war it was taking its toll. Grain was in short supply. Potatoes and sugar were scarce. Some bread was baked using ground up turnips.
Pacifists and suffragettes actively opposed the war and many were jailed.
Most notably the number of army volunteers had dropped to such a level that conscription was introduced in order that a constant supply of bodies was ensured to feed a war that was industrialised to a level never previously seen.
On the 1st July 2016 a commemoration of that first day on the Somme and the Belper men who died will take place at St. Peter’s Church.
It is the second part of the World War One trilogy begun with “We’ll Be Home For Christmas”.
Entitled “The Fourteen”, it will be an evening of drama, music, poetry and movement using contributions from individuals and groups with the whole directed by Larry Waller.
You can be part of “The Fourteen”. Writers, actors, musicians, poets, artists, general helpers, whether in groups or individually, will be made very welcome.
All you have to do is contact the production team with your details and what contribution you’d like to make.
We’ll get back to you to discuss things further.
It is expected that rehearsals will begin on or around 1st June.
Contributions, especially drama and music, need to be received by 1st May.
We are also looking for cooks who would be happy to recreate some of the food from 1916 including trench cake, fish sausages and potted cheese.
If you have any questions or would like to be involved please contact George Gunby by calling 07847478251 or emailing [email protected]
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You can send across your column ideas to [email protected]
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