Casualties in 1916
Course of the War
After the disastrous campaign of the previous year, British and Commonwealth forces were evacuated from Gallipoli.
The stalemate on the Western Front endured with both sides deeply entrenched and neither able to gain an advantage. Despite this, local fighting could be intense and casualties continued to mount. The defence of the small Belgian town of Ypres was vital.
In Mesopotamia, British policy had been confused. Initially British interests were principally for the protection of shipping and trade routes to India through the Persian Gulf and confined to the area south of Basra. But as the forces of the Ottoman Empire came under pressure, the British felt they had to push north towards Baghdad to prevent the Germans (and the French) from taking advantage. However, the military action was not properly funded or planned and ended in disaster with the siege and eventual surrender at Kut-al-Amara on 28 April.
The War at sea
Britain had enjoyed dominance of the seas since the Napoleonic wars but at the end of the 19th century this was contested by Germany. WW1 saw a new form of naval conflict emerge, involving submarines, dreadnoughts and naval blockades. By 1916 the British had effectively blocked all the exits from the North Sea and this blockade would be instrumental in starving the Germans into surrender.
Battle of Verdun
Faced with stalemate in Flanders, the Germans turned their attention southwards and planned an attack on Verdun. Their intention was not so much for a strategic breakthrough but rather a war of attrition where they would bleed the French army dry and sap their morale. They almost succeeded.
In April, the decision to prepare for an attack on The Somme was taken. The war in Picardy and Flanders continued.
The Battle of the Somme began on 1 July. The aim was to break through the German lines in the Somme region, south of Arras. It was also hoped that the new offensive would take German troops away from Verdun to enable the attack on the town to be relieved. The siege of Verdun would eventually be lifted and the Allies did make some advances in the Somme but the breakthrough did not happen. 20,000 British soldiers were killed on the opening day. By the end of the battle in November, both sides between them had lost over 900,000 men, killed, wounded or missing.
The Battle of the Somme was fought in a number of 'phases' but each phase was more or less a repeat of the previous one: heavy artillery bombardment followed by infantry advances leading to hand-to-hand fighting. But the shelling was often ineffectual as the Germans were deeply entrenched and advancing infantry were mown down by machine-gun fire.
The War was also going on on other fronts. In October 1915 a combined Franco-British force of two large brigades was landed at Salonika at the request of the Greek Prime Minister. The objective was to help the Serbs in their fight against Bulgarian aggression, but the expedition arrived too late, the Serbs having been beaten before they landed. Nevertheless, it was decided to keep the force in place for future operations, even against Greek opposition (some elements of the Greek government supported the Germans). The troops spent the early months of 1916 reinforcing the defences along the border with miles and miles of barbed wire. The Salonika Force dug-in until the summer of 1916, by which time the international force had been reinforced and joined by Serbian, Russian and Italian units. A Bulgarian attempted invasion of Greece in July was repulsed near Lake Doiran.
On the Somme, by late October the major assaults had come to an end but fighting continued on the northern part of the battlefield near the River Ancre.
November - December
The estimated human cost of the Battle of the Somme:
United Kingdom: 360,000 casualties (20,000 men killed on the first day).
France: 204,000 casualties, including 50,000 killed
Canada: 24,000 casualties
Australia: 23,000 casualties
New Zealand: 8000 casualties, including 2000 killed
Total Allies dead or missing: 150,000
Germany: 450,000–600,000 casualties, including 164,000 killed
The gains were slight (a maximum of 12 kms anywhere along the front), but the German army was exhausted and morale began to decline. The cumulative effects of attrition and frequent defeats would lead to the final German collapse in 1918.
Lostock Hall men
A number of Lostock Hall men saw service in Gallipoli in 1915. After evacuation in 1916, some went to Mesopotamia, some to Salonika and some to France.
March 30 At Hooge, east of Ypres, Fred Sholliker of the Scots Guards was killed when a shell hit his trench.
6Bn Loyal North Lancs had gone to Gallipoli in November 1915 and in January 1916 was evacuated to Egypt and in March was sent to try to relieve the siege at Kut. They failed. Tom Hilton and William Parr were both killed in action on 9 April. William Hibbert survived the fighting but succumbed to the appalling conditions. He died of cholera on 2 May.
Joseph Aloysius Moxham served with 6Bn in Gallipoli and Mesopotamia and survived the War.
The Germans were still able to launch raids against the fleet at sea and also on strategic ports on the mainland. On 24 April, German battleships attacked the ports of Lowestoft and Felixstowe. 200 houses were destroyed and 3 people killed on the mainland. William Rose, serving aboard HMS Medea, the only man on the Lostock Hall Memorial to serve in the Royal Navy, was killed at sea.
Near Arras, the Germans attacked at Broadmarsh Crater and then 8Bn Loyal North Lancs counter-attacked. John Joseph Youd was killed on 21 May, together with 30 officers and men from his Bn. Henry Shaw had fought in the Boer War and re-enlisted in 1914 in 6Bn Loyal North Lancs. He then fought at Gallipoli in 1915 and after evacuation was posted to 2Bn and sent to France. He was killed near Arras on 5 June.
James Tattersall, an engine cleaner from Garfield Terrace, served in 8Bn Loyal North Lancs and was killed during an assault on Ovillers on 10 July.
Herbert Smalley was a railway engine driver from Lostock Hall, he served with 7Bn Loyal North Lancashire Regt. - the Preston Pals. He was killed on 23 July in an attempt to capture the strategic village of Guillemont. The attack was a failure and a very costly one: 11 officers and 290 men from 7Bn were killed, wounded or missing; 70 men were killed including Herbert Smalley.
Richard Bradley was born in Lostock Hall but emigrated to Australia where he joined the Australian Imperial Force. He returned to Europe to fight and was killed near Pozières on 15 August. He was 24. 97 other AIF men were killed the same day.
Joseph Wiseman, a clog and boot maker from Tardy Gate, was killed on 26 August, during the continuing attempts to capture the strategic village of Guillemont. He was in 1/5 Loyal North Lancs.
James Carr, a bleach worker from King Street, Lostock Hall, had signed up in 1914 with 12 Bn King's (Liverpool Regiment) when he was only 17 and he was killed at Guillemont exactly two years later, on 5 September.
Alfred Gidlow had fought with 1/4Bn Loyal North Lancs through Festubert in 1915 and at Guillemont. He was killed on 9 September at Delville Wood. 55 officers and men from 1/4Bn were killed that day. Alfred was 28.
Charles Robinson, a carter in a tannery from Lostock Hall, had enlisted with the Grenadier Guards. He was killed on 11 September at Bernafay Woods, near Montauban, aged 21. 13 other Guards were killed that day.
Charlie Nutter was born in Clitheroe but moved to Lostock Hall in the 1890s and worked in the spinning shed. He joined 14Bn King's (Liverpool Regt.) and went to Salonika in October 1915. He died there of malaria a year later on 16 October 1916.
John Parker was a weaver from Higher Walton who moved to Lostock Hall after 1911 and also served with 14Bn KLR. Like Charlie he succumbed to the appalling conditions and died of pneumonia on 25 October 1916.
William Hardman, a weaver born in Walton, Liverpool, but lived at Ward’s Terrace, Lostock Hall, enlisted with ‘Preston Pals’, aged only 17. 7Bn LNLR were near the R. Ancre in October but did not engage in fighting due to the incessant rain. William was killed on 25 October while repairing telephone wires. Aged 19.
Richard Hunt had emigrated to Australia and enlisted with the Australian Engineers. His Division had been engaged in a (failed) ‘diversionary’ attack near Armentières and moved to the Somme in October. Richard was wounded in action on 6 November and died two days later, aged 27.
Fred Murray was a cotton mill worker living in Tardy Gate. He enlisted with 1Bn LNLR, fought through and survived the three main phases of the Somme but was killed in action (probably a shell on his trench) near Bazentin-Le-Grand on 26 November. He was 19.
Tom Sanderson was a clerk with the Lancs & Yorks Railway, living on Black Lane (now Brownedge Road), Lostock Hall. He served in the Scots Guards. He was wounded in the trenches by German shelling and died of his wounds on 20 December, near Guillemont. He was 21.
Click on the image to see the animation 'The Somme in Seven Poems'