Serre, the Somme, 1916

On November 13th 1916, 100 years ago today, the Hull Pals were sent over the top to attack German positions around the ruins of the French village of Serre at Beaumont Hamel. It was one of the last attacks of the fateful Somme campaign, and while history has rightly remembered the 1st July as being a horror story of monstrous proportions, little has been made of the last final act of the play.

In the small hours of the morning soldiers from 12th and 13th Battalions (3rd and 4th Hull Pals) attacked through mist and torrential rain looking to flatten out a dangerous salient which threatened to cause casualties over the winter. The same old story unfolded. Men trudged through mud, in places up to their chests, and were mown down by machine gun and artillery fire. Many were The Hull Originals, the volunteers of August and September 1914, when the long uneven lines of Larkin’s poem had stretched out from City Hall for hundreds of yards as men and boys queued to enlist in the great adventure hoping to get a go at ‘The Bosch’ before it was all over. Well, they weren’t so innocent now.

The 12th Battalion lost 106 men in a matter of minutes. The 13th Battalion another 138.

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