the waste of a stupid war
It is a beautiful place today when you drive by it, but then you notice a curious red dragon facing a wood.
The Welsh soldiers were just seven months out of training when they entered into combat at Mametz Wood. Many had never fired a round in combat, and used broomsticks rather than rifles at drill practice.
In sharp contrast they faced the elite Lehr Regiment of Prussian Guards - highly-trained professional soldiers who were deeply entrenched in the dense woods.
Their trenches were dug into chalk and thick wire stretched through the battleground, while the wood was heavily fortified with machine guns.
As part of the Battle of the Somme was the Battle of Mametz Wood;
Mametz Wood was the objective of the 38th (Welsh) Division during the First Battle of the Somme. The attack was made in a northerly direction over a ridge, focussing on the German positions in the wood, between 7 July and 12 July 1916 . On 7 July the men formed the first wave, intended to take the wood in a matter of hours.
The British system was exceptionally hard on the homefront. Like the regiment my ancestors fought in during the American Civil War, the guy to the left and right of you was your neighbor, your brother, your cousin, your co-worker, your classmate, your friend.
Lord Thomas of Gresford recently highlighted the role of the Division in the House of Lords, describing the loss of men in the battle as a "huge tragedy for the whole of Wales".
He said 1,000 men from the Rhondda Regiment went in to battle that day, but only 135 men answered the roll call the following day. ... 3,993 killed or injured there.
In the first day, over 400 men were killed just trying to get from that red dragon to the treeline.
The poet Robert Graves fought in the battle and, having gone back into the wood once the battle was finally over, wrote:
"It was full of dead Prussian Guards, big men, and dead Royal Welch Fusiliers and South Wales Borderers, little men. Not a single tree in the wood remained unbroken."
Take some time to follow the links above and read up on this little snapshot of the sacrifice from WWI years before the USA threw its hat in the ring - especially this one about what a walk in the woods is like today.
First posted July 2016.