IAIN WRIGHT: Memorial needed to DLI’s Somme heroes

Many men from the North East died at the Somme
Many men from the North East died at the Somme

Last Friday July 1 marked the centenary of the Battle of the Somme. This is certainly a date worth commemorating.

That first day of the Battle of the Somme, a hundred years ago, was the worst single loss of British lives in the history of the British Army.

Much of this was down to the tactics employed by the Allied generals. 100,000 men were sent over the top of the trenches to attack the German lines.

The Germans responded by firing machine guns and rifles.

The British troops walked towards the German territory and were simply mown down in an absolutely horrific slaughter.

On that first day, a total of 19,240 British soldiers lost their lives, as part of 57,470 casualties.

The scene must have been one of complete and utter carnage and terror.

Astonishingly, in a move that defies moral comprehension, let alone sound military strategy. Douglas Haig, the British general in charge of the campaign, ordered wave after wave of British and Allied troops to continue the offensive, despite the fact that there would be no military advantage and that he was condemning hundreds of thousands of British soldiers to an almost inevitable death.

Over five months, the Somme campaign struggled on – more than a million soldiers from the British, French and German Armies were killed.

The North East and Hartlepool played their part in the Battle of the Somme.

The Durham Light Infantry – the DLI – has a proud tradition and played a key role in the events of a hundred years ago. Known as the Durham Pals, the regiment’s D-Company suffered especially heavy losses.

Across the DLI’s 18th Battalion, more than 300 were killed and wounded. Within D-Company, 75 men were killed and 21 of those – almost a third – came from the Hartlepools.

There is a regional campaign to see a memorial erected to commemorate those from the DLI who fought at the Somme.

I think this is important. We should never forget the sacrifices made by our ancestors in the First World War. The North East – and Hartlepool – did its patriotic duty in the Great War.

Far too many from the town and the wider North East didn’t come back home to their loved ones.

I believe the entire region should be proud and humbled by the bravery of D-Company, and a fitting way to allow us to commemorate the sacrifices made by those from our part of the world is to have a specific permanent memorial.