Battle of the Somme (1)

I’m giving away a copy of Joe Sacco’s The Great War, what NPR called a “panorama of devastation,” an accordian-fold book, 24 feet long, about day one of The Battle of the Somme. Scroll down to enter.

The Battle of the Somme began 100 years ago today.


The Great War started on a summer’s day just under two years before, and proved a time for the poets: here was a noble war with clear goals and lofty convictions, a chance to stand up for Right and Home.

It was also a time of a devastating lack of understanding when it came to the vast changes technology had made in the craft of war. Generals trained in an age of cavalry charges and arrayed attacksAlfred Munnings,Charge of Flowerdew's Squadron

found it tragically impossible to understand machine guns, barbed wire, and high explosives, far less mustard gas and tank warfare. A cavalry regiment was standing by when the Somme began, ready to sweep in past the infantry. As if a mounted horse had a chance through the pitted ground of No-Man’s Land.Hawthorn_Ridge_mine_1_July_1916

The Somme began with one of the bloodiest days in history—certainly for the British Army composed largely of newly trained Kitchener’s Army volunteers. They suffered nearly 60,000 casualties, a third of them deaths. And that first day was followed by 140 more, all over the same ground.

Millions died and suffered terrible wounds because of the ill judgment of the military command. Two years in, even the most romantic of poets had to admit, “In moments like these, words are futile.”



Joe Sacco’s The Great War is a modern Bayeux Tapestry on paper, a detailed panorama of the first day of the Somme battle. If you’d like to enter for my drawing of Joe Sacco’s gorgeous The Great War, pop over here before midnight Monday.


  1. Heather Arnould on July 1, 2016 at 10:00 am

    Today, here in Canada, it’s the celebration of our 149th birthday and it’s also a day of mourning for a whole generation of young men from our youngest province, Newfoundland. They fought and died en masse in The Battle of the Somme due to military, strategic stupidity.

    Unfortunately, not the first and definitely not the last.


    • Celia Lewis on July 1, 2016 at 2:55 pm

      Indeed, Heather. Over 900 soldiers went in on July 1st at the Battle of the Somme, and only 68 made roll call the next day. Whole communities lost their men. Tragic waste.

  2. Marie on July 1, 2016 at 10:35 am

    As a young girl, I was an avid reader of LM Mongomery’s Anne Shirley. Even back then, I was a history buff, reading GWTW in 6th grade and attending Civil War reinactments with my grandfather. But I knew little about the Great War. Montgomery drew a picture of a young girl (Anne’s youngest daughter) growing up while her brothers and friends were going away. Her beloved brother Walter dies during the battle of the Somme, and it was the first time I cried while reading a book. There is little description of the conditions, except in letter form, for those left at home had only newspapers to trust, and that information was shaky. The understanding of war changed for me reading this. I cannot fathom living through this as a woman left behind. Thank you to those who lost loved ones and to those who made the ultimate sacrifice.

  3. Elina on July 3, 2016 at 10:05 am

    What boggles my mind is that Arizona had only recently become a state.

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