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Forces War Records Blog

UNEARTHING THE SCRIBES OF A WWI SOLDIER ON A SOMME TUNNEL: "EVERY CLOUD IS SILVER LINED. STILL."

Blogger: GemSen It must have been pretty thrilling being one of the archaeologists to have just discovered a maze of World War One tunnels in La Boisselle, northern France – left untouched for nearly 100 years.

And on top of that finding artefacts, discovering poems and signatures on the walls of the tunnels by WWI soldiers must have really made the experience spine tingling. "When I first saw them I was blown away," genealogist, Glen Phillips, told the BBC. "The thought of being able to share that with some of the families of some of those men is what really motivates me and drives me on to do this research." Mr Phillips is part of La Boisselle project team of archaeologists, historians and volunteers have spent the past few years exploring this part of the Western Front, untouched since the end of WWI. "It is such an amazing piece of history and it's so fresh," said Mr Phillips. "The signatures have been there for nearly 100 years and because the tunnels have been sealed up, they are as fresh as the day they were made... like a doodles on a notebook these days." Under the site of the 1916 Battle of the Somme, the writing in pencil apparently belongs to three soldiers from the Cumbrian regiment, reported the BBC. Bringing a much more personal and emotive element to the find, the scribbles have inspired an appeal to have been launched to find the descendants of the men who left their personal messages there, all those years ago. Peter Barton, author and historian for La Boisselle Project, said: "Finding graffiti like this, particularly names, is probably the most thrilling part of this project... to find the names of the men who actually served here and then to be able to try and find their families, that gives it an entirely different dimension. One of the bloodiest battles of World War One This August, 2014, will mark the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of World War I. The conflict will be remembered as one of the bloodiest wars not only of World War One but also in history – the horrors of trench warfare resulted in thousands of soldiers ‘going over the top’ and dying in futile attacks against the enemy, epitomised by the Battle of the Somme. The 1st of July 1916 marked the start of the Battle of the Somme, but it continued until November 1916 and it was actually a long series of battles. It is believed that more than 1.2 million died during the main battle, but a group of soldiers fought their own private hidden war, underground. The tunnels, 80ft (24m) down, were dug so that troops could plant explosives below enemy lines. Most of the British work in the tunnels was done by miners, many of them from the north of England, but a lot of infantrymen were pressed into service underground too. According to the article the three messages on the tunnel walls are from Privates William Carr, William Chard and Obadiah Henderson who all left Carlisle to go overseas with the 11th Lonsdale Battalion in November 1915. All of these men helped the tunnellers prepare for the Battle of the Somme and all attacked on the first day of battle on 1 July 1916. Pte Obadiah Henderson was from Riding Mill in Northumberland and worked as a farm labourer before volunteering to go to war. Pte William Chard was a joiner from Longtown, Cumberland. Both of these men survived the Battle of the Somme and returned home after. Pte Carr was wounded on the first day of battle and returned home to Carlisle to recuperate after being shot in the leg. He then returned to war in the Battle of Arras, serving for the 2nd Battalion, during which he suffered fatal wounds and died on 24 June 1917. One anonymous poem reads: "If in this place you are detained, don't look around you all in vain, but cast your net and you will find, that every cloud is silver lined. Still." Considering the extreme circumstances these soldiers must have been in I think we can all take a lot from that very poignant quote... Source: BBC
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