On this day in 1916 the BATTLE OF THE SOMME began. The 1st Bn King’s Own Scottish Borderers were part of the 87th Brigade of the 29th Division and were in the second wave behind the 1st Bn Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers who went “over the top” at 0730 into devastating German machine gun fire. Their attack failed, the Borderers watched the Fusiliers fall while they themselves were under intense Artillery fire knowing they would be next. The slaughter continued for the Borderers until 1600 when they were relieved, the day would see acts of great courage and self sacrifice from all Borderers.
Amongst the 57,000 British casualties on the first day of the Battle of the Somme were 548 Borderers of the 1st Battalion, The King’s Own Scottish Borderers. More were to follow in the days ahead, together with others from the 2nd, 6th and the combined 7th/8th Battalions, who were all committed at different times into the assault.
The offensive was launched to relieve pressure on the French at the slaughterhouse that was Verdun and to stop the Germans reinforcing their Eastern Front against the Russians, who were suffering badly.
Before the start, the troops were told that there would be no enemy; the preliminary artillery bombardment would see to that; they would merely have to stroll across no man’s land and march straight onto Berlin. The British Army did its duty; the aim was achieved, ultimately; invaluable tactical lessons were learnt; but all at a price.
The father of one Borderer, on receiving his letter of condolence from the Commanding Officer, which brought the news that his third and final son had died in the battle, wrote straight back: “My only regret is that I do not have another three sons to give the Regiment.”