07:30 (on the new “summer time”) approaches. There’s a subtle shift in the sound of the gunfire and shell explosions as the guns shift their targets along the 14 mile British section of the trench. The ground shakes, and an immense roar goes up as huge mines are exploded under sections of the German lines: some of the largest man made (non-nuclear) explosions ever.
Then officers blow their whistles, men clamber up ladders onto the parapet of their trenches, and begin to move into no man’s land.
Soon almost 20,000 will be dead, and adding the wounded, prisoners and missing, the casualty list reaches towards 60,0000.
Men of the Surrey Association must have been among those taking part in the advance, though I’ve not attempted to draw up a list (and none of those on the roll of honour died that day). Certainly (as we shall see in a few days) they have been involved in the preliminary bombardment and other supporting roles.
Of the wider set of Surrey ringers only Sidney Bowler Weatherston of Southwark will fall this day. But after today there will still be 140 more days of fighting before the generals call time on the Battle of the Somme.