Friday, 1 July 2016

On this day - Battle of the Somme starts 1st July 1916

Today is the 100th anniversary of the first day of the Battle of Somme. Although most may not know all the details the battle has entered the subconscious of the British people. The Somme is now a byword for the suffering and horrendous conditions that resulted in trench warfare.

The object shown is a percussion fuse No. 85/44 for a 18pdr shell fired from a British gun [18 pounder] in the Somme area. 
The 'BSC' stamp indicates that this fuse was made by the Bethlehem Steel Company. 
These American built fuses were mainly used with 13 and 18pdr field guns. At the end of the war there were over three thousand 18pdrs in the field which had fired nearly 100 million rounds (99,397,670 to be precise) on the Western front. 

The 85 fuse was based on a 1907 U.S. model, this particular model was introduced in 1916, and made at the Bethlehem Steel Corporation. This firm [Bethlehem Steel] was America's second-largest steel producer and largest shipbuilder. The company provided steel for some of America's most iconic building and structures such as the Hoover Dam, Golden Gate Bridge and the Chrysler Building. 
I've been fortunate to have visited a number of the WWI battlefields, such as Beaumont-Hamel and the Lochnagar Crater. You can (or could) buy these fuses from various shops, museums and cafes collected from the fields (please note that metal detecting in battlefield areas is illegal and dangerous in France and Belgium). 
British 18 pounder gun
Travelling through the French and Belgium sites you will still occasionally see rusty pieces of ordnance stacked by the roadside waiting to be disposed by the army. My dad often tells the story that he saw, a few years ago, two old gents in Belgium kicking round an old shell at the edge of a field. My dad walked away as quickly as possible before the war could claim another victim. 

Although this object may seems a little morbid I use this as a paperweight and it serves to remind me of the futility of war and "man's inhumanity to man".