On Friday 1 July, Arthur Thorning (1963) and Clare Hopkins (college archivist) represented Trinity at the national commemoration of the Battle of the Somme.
The event was held at the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing of the Somme, and national leaders present included Princes Charles, William and Harry, David Cameron, President Michael Higgins and Prime Minister Manuel Valls. The story of how the Battle unfolded was narrated by Charles Dance, Joely Richardson, and Jason Isaacs, and was vividly illustrated by extracts from the letters and diaries of those who fought, read by representatives of today’s armed forces.
The 141 days of the Somme offensive have come to epitomise the wasteful, grinding, industrial horror of World War One, but this commemoration focused particularly on the heroic sacrifice of the men who served: especially the Pals’ Battalions of Kitchener’s volunteer army, for many of whom it was their first experience of battle. It was especially poignant to listen to the haunting melody of George Butterworth’s ‘Banks of Green Willow’ while schoolchildren laid wreaths on the French and English graves that lay before the Memorial. During two minutes of silence, thousands of paper poppies and cornflowers (the French flower of remembrance) drifted down onto the Memorial steps.
The Thiepval Memorial is an immense brick and stone arch, designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens and completed in 1932. It stands majestically on a hilltop, commanding panoramic views across a peaceful and beautiful landscape that one hundred years ago was the scene of bitter fighting and appalling slaughter. On the faces of the piers are inscribed the names of 72,000 British and South African soldiers who are ‘the missing’ of the Somme. The total casualties on the Somme approximately one million men, of whom almost 20,000 were killed on the first day. At the end of the service, Arthur laid a wreath in memory of the thirty-one members of Trinity who lost their lives in the Somme Offensive.
George Butterworth (1904) is one of eleven Trinity men listed on the memorial: a lieutenant in the Durham Light Infantry, he was killed on 4 August 1916. Also listed is Captain Henry Butter of the Black Watch (1906), who fell on 14 July 1916. Henry was an only child and his mother sent his silver hip flask, engraved with his name and the date of his death, to his college friend, Wilfrid Ingham (1906). High on one of the inner faces of the memorial is the name of Edward Wilfred Estridge (1904). Edward fell on 13 November 1916, just days before the first snows of winter finally brought the Battle of the Somme to an end. His best friend at Trinity, Henry Hunt (1904), preserved a photograph of him in happier days in the college garden.
The names of all of Trinity’s war dead are inscribed on the board in the College Library, and are also displayed in the Hall passage, where the fallen of the Somme are being remembered, month by month, alongside the manuscript of Laurence Binyon’s ‘For the Fallen’.
They shall grow not old, as we who are left grow old.
Age shall not weary them, nor the years decay.
At the going down of the Sun, and in the morning,
We will remember them.
Posted: 7 July 2016