Tolkien’s haunting memories
The author of ‘The Lord of the Rings’, J.R.R. Tolkien, was one of the young British recruits who fought in the battle. For the young Oxford graduate there was no greater horror than what he saw there, and this inspired him to write about Mordor, the stronghold of evil.
In the third year of the war, the Allies launched an offensive against the Germans in the north of France with the objective of achieving a decisive victory that would determine the outcome of the war in their favour. Convinced that the aerial bombardments that had been pounding German trenches for three days had destroyed their artillery, thousands of soldiers approached enemy lines on foot. 20,000 died from German machine-gun fire in just six minutes. One million lost their lives in the 141 days of the battle. A character in ‘Tender is the Night’, by F. Scott Fitzgerald, one of the writers who best portrayed the disenchantment of the ‘Lost Generation’ described the moment as: “All my beautiful, lovely, safe world blew itself up here”.
The sites where this battle took place in the Picardy region in the north of France are not as well known as the beaches in the Normandy landing or as Verdun, another bloody battle with a million French and German casualties. The centenary of the Battle of the Somme could be a good opportunity to discover this area, where even today, weapons continue to be discovered and bodies unearthed. The bodies of the soldiers were never moved, and almost 500 military cemeteries can be found in the area.