The Battle of The Somme: 100 Years On


Today is the centenary of the worst single battle in the history of the world, which led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of young men. It’s hard not to be deeply moved, watching the events at the magnificent Luytens monument in Picardy. Though my novel, The Very White of Love, which will be published in 2018, is set in WW2, the themes are universal: the loss of so many brave young men, like Martin Preston, the hero of my book, whose uncle, the poet Robert Graves, fought in WW1; and the loss and grief of hundreds of thousands of women. I just heard a woman from an old black and white newsreel saying of the news of her husband’s death: I didn’t want to go on living because everything I loved died that day. This is how my mother, Nancy, felt after she heard that Martin had been killed at Hazebrouck. Unlike the Somme, though, where more than 70,000 bodies were never recovered, Martin was found and buried in the cemetery at Hazebrouck, which I visited as part of the researches for the book. As the words on the Lutyens monument says: Their memory liveth forever.

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