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Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill (30 ноя 1874 - 24 янв 1965) Part III 1916–1918 (1923-31)

To All Who Endured

CHAPTER VII

THE BATTLE OF THE SOMME

Pray God that you may never know

The Hell where youth and laughter go.’

SIEGFRIED SASSOON.

The anatomy of the battles of Verdun and the Somme was the same. A battlefield had been selected. Around this battlefield walls were built—double, triple, quadruple—of enormous cannon. Behind these railways were constructed to feed them, and mountains of shells were built up. All this was the work of months. Thus the battlefield was completely encircled by thousands of guns of all sizes, and a wide oval space prepared in their midst. Through this awful arena all the divisions of each army, battered ceaselessly by the enveloping artillery, were made to pass in succession, as if they were the teeth of interlocking cog-wheels grinding each other.

For month after month the ceaseless cannonade continued at its utmost intensity, and month after month the gallant divisions of heroic human beings were torn to pieces in this terrible rotation.

The Headquarters Staff estimates dated August 1 placed the German loss in July at ‘certainly not less than 130,000 men,’ as against my estimate of 65,000 at the same date. The Reichsarchiv’s returns give the figure for July on the whole British front of 59,493. The British Monthly Returns show a British total of 196,000 for July. Deducting one eighth from both for casualties on the quiet sectors, we reach the figures of German loss in July 52,000, and British 171,000.

The temptation to tell a Chief in a great position the things he most likes to hear is one of the commonest explanations of mistaken policy. An Emperor, a Commander-in-Chief, even a Prime Minister in peace or war, is in the main surrounded by smiling and respectful faces. Most people who come in contact with him in times of strain feel honoured by contact with so much power or in sympathy with the bearer of such heavy burdens. They are often prompted to use smooth processes, to mention some favourable item, to leave unsaid some ugly misgiving or some awkward contradiction. Thus the outlook of the leader on whose decision fateful events depend is usually far more sanguine than the brutal facts admit.

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