F1 is in Austria this weekend, and I’m awake far too early, listening to birdsong. It’s 04.50.
My late father was a clergyman and he had a strange job each year on this day: he was the chaplain of the Lochnagar mine crater, near the village of La Boisselle on the Somme. One hundred years ago this morning, at 07.28, a British mine under the German front line, filled with high explosive, was detonated. It blew a hole 440 ft wide and earth up to 4000 ft in the air. There were several such mines that morning, but La Boisselle is the only one left today. Two minutes after this, began the worst day in the history of the British Army: July 1 1916, the first day of the Battle of the Somme. 19,240 allied soldiers died before lunch, with a total of 57,000 casualties – in one fucking day (excuse my language). And for what? All those fine young men died because competing nations wanted to be more powerful than one another and their leaders let it happen.
Don’t ever let anyone tell you that nationalism is a good thing.
We have the European Union today because some intelligent men got together and agreed that they had to save future generations from such stupid barbarity. The EU has its faults, but surely it’s better than repeating the same mistakes every 20-40 years: 1815… 1854.. 1870… 1914… 1939… And if you don’t know what I’m talking about, use Google.
Ever tried to grow poppies? They only grow in disturbed earth, which is why there were so many of them in the summer of 1916…