So, a hundred years ago today the Somme began -- the most deadly battle in human history. That first day, Rob Gilson, one of the T.C.B.S., died, along with about twenty thousand fellow Britishers: more than double that were wounded.
In a century marked by disasters, it was one of the greatest catastrophes within one of the greatest catastrophes (the War itself).
Tolkien survived largely because his group was being held in reserve for those first few bloody days. By the end of the year another of his best friends, G. B. Smith, would die as well, while Tolkien himself had been invalided back home, spending the next two years in and out of hospitals.
Forty years later Tolkien wd commemorate Gilson and Smith in his foreword to THE LORD OF THE RINGS: "By 1918 all but one of my close friends were dead" (the survivor being Christopher Wiseman, who was serving at sea rather than in France).
A sad day to commemorate all who died there, English and German and French.
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