The Battle of the Somme
July 1 2016 marks 100 years since the Battle of the Somme began, a battle which would forever symbolise the horrors of the First World War. It is a battle which epitomised the futility of trench warfare and its first day of conflict remains the bloodiest day in the history of the British Army.
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The Battle of the Somme, fought in northern France, was one of the bloodiest of World War One. For five months the British and French armies engaged the Germans in a brutal battle of attrition on a 15-mile front.
The aims of the battle were to relieve the French Army fighting at Verdun and to weaken the German Army. However, the Allies were unable to break through German lines. In total, there were over one million dead and wounded on all sides.
The centenary provides an opportunity to commemorate those who served and lost their lives.
SSAFA (then the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Families Association) was the only charity that, from the outbreak of war in 1914, was caring for the families of troops sent to the front line. Without a welfare system in place the government turned to SSAFA and asked for help to fill the gap that quickly appeared in support to the servicemen’s families.
From the very beginning of the war SSAFA worked tirelessly to support military families. It not only addressed the vital issues of accommodation for those made homeless and healthcare for soldiers and their families, it also helped to boost morale through providing the little things in life and thousands of children’s toys were distributed at Christmas.
As well as practical face-to-face support for families, SSAFA was also leading the way on some very modern issues, fighting and defeating the more reactionary elements in the Church and the Government who felt that the families of unmarried partners should not be provided for.
Many of the challenges of 100 years ago remain unchanged and families continue to need our help on issues ranging from injury, disability and bereavement to housing, finance and transition. Today we still support some 90,000 current and former Forces personnel and their families each year.