100th Anniversary - The Boar's Head (The day Sussex died)
You can regularly read on our series of articles titled 'Blunden's War' about some of the events and people described in Undertones of War, as we travel 100 years back. This one action resulted in over 1,345 killed wounded or captured, with 33 decorations. The Boar's Head was a diversionary raid on the eve of the opening of the Battle of the Somme.
As described by eastsussexww1 today:
"Before the attack could even be launched problems were afflicting it. The Southdowns had been taken to a constructed replica of the battlefield from which to train on. This 'fake' battlefield also drew attention to the numerous drainage ditches in the area, including one immediately beyond the British trenches. It may also have neglected to include a large dyke running through the centre of no man's land. This training lasted only a few days.
Upon learning of the plans for battle, Colonel Grisewood, commander of the 11th Battalion, famously declared that 'I am not sacrificing my men as cannon-fodder'. Grisewood was promptly relieved of his post. Grisewood had already lost one brother during the war to illness. He would lose another at the Boar's Head."
Blunden witnessed this attack, and it was likely that he had already found the dyke on his exploration of No Man's Land, as he returned to it the following night. The recriminations following the massacre might well have included how the army failed to include the dyke that Blunden found in their risk assessment for the action.
We pay homage to another of Blunden's comrades, Sgt Guy Compton - a 'brave and brilliant young fellow' who single-handedly ended up deep into German lines, almost alone.