Carluke will honour her Somme heroes on July 1

The men who marched away: Soldiers leaving from Carluke Station (photo from Carluke Parish Historical Society)
The men who marched away: Soldiers leaving from Carluke Station (photo from Carluke Parish Historical Society)
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The town of Carluke paid its full share of the bloody bill in human life handed the nation during a battle the very name of which still causes a chill to run down the spine 100 years later.

It was called The Somme.

Soldiers in Carluke Market Place

(photo from Carluke Parish Historical Society)

Soldiers in Carluke Market Place (photo from Carluke Parish Historical Society)

It lasted for four and a half months and it ultimately cost 430,000 British casualties.

Its first day alone – July 1, 1916 – was the very bloodiest in the nation’s entire history,
19,240 of our soldiers losing their lives when what was meant to be a triumphant storming of the German front line turned into a disaster.

It was only much later that the individual cost of The Battle of the Somme to each of Britain’s communities became known, the tally for Carluke – then a far smaller town than it is now – being put at 22 of its men lost .

Back in 1918 their names were, quite correctly, added to those of their Carluke comrades who fell in the many other actions of the FirstWorld War for inclusion on the town’s War Memorial.

However, the approach of the centenary of beginning of The Somme has led to special attention – and deference – being paid to these 22 Carluke men who fell in that battle.

Indeed, a Clyde Valley Somme Association was formed to ensure that the grim anniversary, falling this Friday, July 1, 2016 would not go unmarked.

Said its president, Keith Jackson: “World War One helped to shape the modern world as we know it today and there were many decisive battles during that conflict but one in particular stands out among the rest – The Battle of the Somme.”

He is not a supporter of those who dismiss that action as a senseless waste of life, describing The Somme as both absolutely necessary in achieving final victory.

He adds that important lessons were learned from mistakes made, especially in that bloody first day of July 1 and it could be argued that the sacrifice of the 22 Carluke men on that day and during the rest of the battle allowed many, many other British soldiers to still be alive to hear that final Cease Fire bugle call at 11am on November 11, 1918.

And it will be another sound associated with World War One that the Association has chosen to start Friday’s commemorations in Carluke – a simple whistle.

That was the signal given for men to go into battle throughout the conflict.

Said Keith: “The Association would like to welcome everyone to a whistle blowing ceremony on the morning of Friday, July 1 at 7.30am at the Town Centre Cenotaph. This will symbolise those brave men who went ‘over the top’.

“In the evening there will also be a parade through the town leaving Carluke Rovers Social Club at 6.45pm, stopping firstly at the Thomson Street cemetery to acknowledge the First World War cenotaph there and then the procession will head toward Carluke Cross for the formal laying of wreaths and speeches.

“We send out an invitation to anyorganisation or group who want to pay their respects on this 100th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme.”

At the end of the First World War there were many grand speeches by politicians pledging that the men who laid down their lives in the conflict would never be forgotten.

People like Keith Jackson and his colleagues in the Association are determined to ensure that promise is kept.