"Mud, Blood, and Futility": Chalke Valley History Festival commemorates Battle of the Somme

"Mud, Blood, and Futility": Chalke Valley History Festival commemorates Battle of the Somme

Published by The Spire FM News Team at 12:02am 1st July 2016. (Updated at 6:12pm 1st July 2016)

Events are planned to mark one hundred years to the day since the Battle, in which 20,000 troops were killed.

As countries around the world prepare to mark the centenary of the Battle of the Somme today (Friday 1st July), school children have been learning in south Wiltshire about what is one of the bloodiest battles in history.

20,000 allied troops were killed in the first day's fighting against the Germans in northern France during World War One. The fighting was brutal. British and French soldiers spent five months battling the Germans army along a 15-mile frontline.

Trenches, much like the ones British troops were fighting from, have been recreated in a south Wiltshire field as part of a unique and life-like re-enactment for the Chalke Valley History Festival.

Chalke Valley History Festival 2016 Brigadier with cup of tea (credit Martin Cook)
Local school pupils, many from Year 12 studying for their A-Levels, have visited the trenches to experience what it must have been like for British troops and their allies, as they engaged the enemy.

The Chalke Valley History Festival is playing an important part in ensuring we remember those who fought and the colossal loss of life and suffering that was inflicted on our armies. The trench re-enactment also includes characters dressed in period uniform, playing the role of soldier on the frontline, giving the battle scene and eerie sense of reality.

Chalke Valley History Festival 2016 Trench (CVHF)
Tim Richardson is a 'Living Historian' and standing in damp and soggy field, dressed in his soldier's uniform and soggy Macintosh, he told Spire FM what the visiting school children think about the recreated trench system:

"I meet them at the very end after they've come through and have met some of my colleagues, and we get comments, when I ask them, like 'cool', 'amazing', 'stunning' and 'creepy' and things like that.

"It's the wide-eyed look when they come out of it and meet the angry Sergeant who wants to know what they're doing in his trench... they meet the Brigadier... and as they come through each section they meet a different character from that period.

"It's brilliant, they love it."

LISTEN: Hear more about the Centenary from Tim Richardson here:

Many of the pupils experiencing the Chalke Valley History Festival's WW1 trench system are a similar age to some of the youngest soldiers who fought on the frontline.

The A-Level students are 15 years old, the same age as Private Valentine Strudwick who lied about his age to enlist in January 1915 The Surrey teenager was just 14 at the time, and at the age of 15, became the youngest British soldier to die at The Battle of the Somme.

An international commemoration has been taking place in France today (Friday 1st July) to mark the centenary of the start of the Battle of the Somme. More than four months later the losses totalled almost 1 million men on both sides.

You can read more about the commemoration in France on Spire FM's National newspages: www.spirefm.co.uk/news/national/


950 soldiers associated with Wiltshire were part of the Battle of the Somme in 1916, and many trained in Larkhill in preparation for it.

Richard Broadhead has just released 'The Great War - Wiltshire Soldiers. The Somme 1916' a book with over 200 photos of soldiers who fought but also all details of every person who left Wiltshire to go into battle.

You can buy it here: www.wiltshiresoldiers.co.uk


Guildhall Salisbury
Salisbury Guildhall Square:
St Thomas's Church hosted a special remembrance service in the Guildhall Square at 7.00am, close to the time when the men 'went over the top'.

The service was led by Reverend Canon David Linaker, along with Salisbury's Deputy Mayor, Councillor John Lindley, members of the Royal British Legion's Salisbury City Band will also be there.

This follows an all-night vigil at St Thomas's by Reverend Jonathan Plows.

Salisbury Cathedral:
From midday today (Friday 1st July), the names of the Salisbury men who fell at the Battle will be read out in St Michael's Chapel on the South Trancept.

There'll also be a special Evensong at the Cathedral from 5.30pm on Friday to commemorate the day.

Each Friday from now on, the names of the fallen from communities across Wiltshire and Dorset will be read out too.

Cathedral - no scaffolding 1 - Jan 2015 (Mike Draper)
Salisbury Plain:
A remembrance service is set to be held in Larkhill this morning (Friday July 1st) on the site where training trenches were built ahead of the First World War to prepare the soldiers for the battle.

They were recently uncovered as part of preparation work to build new service family accommodation for soldiers and their families being rebased to Salisbury Plain.

Personnel of the Royal Artillery, Archaeologists and local school children will join together for today's service at the moment the whistles sounded 100 years ago at the start of this momentous battle.


The short service will include two minutes silence, started by the firing of a First World War 18 pounder gun, followed by readings from Sassoon and a WW1 war diary, prayers and the laying of a wreath.

Amesbury Central Car Park:
A service of remembrance is being put on by the Town Council at 3.00pm for anyone to attend.

Among those present will be members of the Royal Artillery, Amesbury's Mayor Councillor Paddy Allen, the Royal British Legion and local youth organisations.


A group of World War One re-enactors have been making their way around Salisbury as part of a social media campaign, using the hashtag #wearehere.

In the gallery below, you can see the WW1 soldiers at Salisbury's Sarum Academy, and the commemoration at Larkhill:

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