Back to the Somme: Part 3

Light gauge railways delivered ammunition to the frontlines. (Imperial War Museum image)

Light gauge railways delivered ammunition to the frontlines.
(Imperial War Museum image)

The Artillery Barrage

Light gauge railways delivered ammunition to the frontline. Prior to the attack on 1 July 1916 a seven-day barrage fired 1.5 million shells. Of these it is estimated 1/3 of them were duds. The Canadian Expeditionary Force’s battalions took part in the Battle of the Somme but much later than the events of July 1916. However, Canadian gunners took part in the barrage 16 July 1916 at Thiepval.

Ordnance on exhibition at Ulster tower. (P. Ferguson image, April 2007)

Ordnance on exhibition at Ulster tower.
(P. Ferguson image, April 2007)

Ordnance on the Somme continues to be encountered. Found in the furrows of farmer’s fields or haphazardly torn from the earth to the surface. Today’s bounty competes for attention amidst the rusted iron shards and unexploded charges. The plough wrenches these iron harvests and after years underground the inedible harvest is despatched for destruction by Ordnance experts. Others, the duds, the unfired rendered inert find their place in exhibitions of the Great War. There appears to be an appetite for destruction – not lost to this wanderer.

German concrete fortification. (Imperial War Museum image)

German concrete fortification on the Somme.
(Imperial War Museum image)

Bombardments, the barrage, often failed to cut the wire which in many locations was 20 yards deep necessitating the use of wire cutters to individually cut through single strands of wire so the infantry could advance. Barrages seldom destroyed the deep German dugouts some of which were 40’ deep cut into the chalk landscape. Similarly German concrete fortifications and gun positions were able to withstand this iron battering. Despite the onslaught of artillery against their enemy, British and allied forces were faced with the daunting task of taking well established enemy positions.

About The Author

Paul has worked with the Paradigm Motion Picture Company since 2009 as producer, historian and research specialist. Paul first met Casey and Ian WIlliams of Paradigm in April 2007 at Ieper (Ypres), Belgium when ceremonies were being held for the re-dedication of the Vimy Memorial, France. Paul's sensitivity to film was developed at an early age seeing his first films at RCAF Zweibrucken, Germany and Sardinia. Paul returned to Canada in 1967 and was captivated by David Lean's "Lawrence of Arabia" and "Bridge on the River Kwai". Over time Paul became increasingly interested in storytelling, content development, character, direction, cinematography, narration and soundtracks. At the University of Victoria, Paul studied and compared Japanese and Australian film and became interested in Australian film maker Peter Weir and his film "Gallipoli" (1981). Paul was inspired when he learned Weir visited the beaches, ridges and ravines of the peninsula. "Gallipoli", the film, led Paul on many journeys to sites of conflict in England, France, Belgium, Holland, Germany, Malta, Hawaii, Gallipoli, North Macedonia and Salonika. When Paul first watched documentary filmmaker Ken Burns, "The Civil War", Paul understood how his own experience and insight could be effective and perhaps influential in film-making. Combining his knowledge of Museums and Archives, exhibitions and idea strategies with his film interests was a natural progression. Paul thinks like a film-maker. His passion for history and storytelling brings to Paradigm an eye (and ear) to the keen and sensitive interests of; content development, the understanding of successful and relational use of collections, imagery and voice. Like Paul's favorite actor, Peter O'Toole, Paul believes in the adage “To deepen not broaden.” While on this path Paul always remembers his grandmother whose father did not return from the Great War and how his loss shaped her life and how her experience continues to guide him.


Leave a Reply