Saturday, 1 July 2006

Battle of the Somme

Today, ninety years ago, the Somme Offensive was launched on the Western Front. Whistles were blown in Thiepval at 07.28 this morning to signal the start of the attack – and to set off a weekend of commemorations.

My grandfather, Henry Schofield (East Surrey Regiment), fought on the Somme. He went ‘over the top’ and was only one of two survivors from his company. When he realised that most of his comrades had fallen, he jumped into a shell-hole. The Germans spent some time shooting at him, but he managed to crawl back to his line in the evening. When it was discovered that he had been a student at Manchester University, he was given the awful job of writing letters to the families of those who had not survived.

The war had a happy ending for my grandfather. Patrolling a village not far from Mons at the end of the war, looking for possible troop billets, he met and fell in love with a Belgian girl, Simone Delsart. They married and she went back with him to Manchester. And ninety years later here I am, their only grandchild!

We remember, at this time, the many courageous Catholic chaplains during the Great War. On 5 July 1916 Fr Donal O’Sullivan (attached to the 1st Royal Irish Rifles) was killed in action at Bouzincourt. Later that month, Fr John Birch of the Salford Diocese was wounded and lost a leg (though this did not stop him from becoming a canon in later life!). Other casualties followed on the Somme, including Fr D. Doyle, SJ (19th August), and Fr D.M. Guthrie of Quarr Abbey (24th November), both killed in action.

Requiem aeternam dona eis, Domine, et lux perpetua luceat eis. Requiescant in pace.


Blogger Fr John Boyle said...

It must be a source of great pride to know your grandfather took part in this Battle. Providence brings good out of evil. Let's pray for peace in other troubled parts of the world and for soldiers, chaplains and civilians caught up in these conflicts.

1:20 pm  
Blogger Fr Tim Finigan said...

You are justly proud of your grandfather who went "over the top" at the Somme. It was a horrific battle and showed the best of the young men of England. The chaplains were indeed heroic. I have a prayerbook from one of them which contains the formula for General Absolution, with the condition that if the men survived, they had to confess any moral sins in sacramental confession. I don't imagine any great howls of injustice against that - just respect for the priests who went into the shell holes to anoint their flock.

4:59 pm  

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