At 7.30am whistles blew and 120,000 British and Empire troops began an assault on 16 miles of multilayered German defences.
Men, carrying kit weighing almost 7o pounds, were ordered to march towards German machine gun entrenchments with the inevitable result.
Casualties among the attacking force on Day 1 numbered 57,470 (including 19,240 killed), just under half the total number of soldiers who took part.
Fighting continued for a further 140 days.
Day 1 was, and still is, the bloodiest day in British Army history.
The trenches are awash with mud.
We share this hell with rats and dead
while mortar shells scream overhead
and all the world is choked with blood.
We came as boys: some never aged
but died with childhood in their eyes.
Should we grow old, their fearful cries
will haunt us. So, like scapegoats caged
before a hungry tiger’s eye,
we wait for them, the bloody foe,
to charge with bayonets and know
what we must do, but never why.
This futile madness makes me weep.
Such sacrifice for little gain.
Fear only quelled by fearful pain.
Let death be but an endless sleep.
The child’s eyes are full of fear. He sees
light subtly altered, fields pulsating red.
Be a brave soldier, his mother soothes
and tucks him back in bed.
His father’s eyes are full of fear. He yells:
Get ready Men. Men tremble in the pit
then go over the top, following his shout.
Soldiers in dirty khaki kit.
No time for words or thoughts of home.
Only a moment to glance upwards and spy
something silver falling towards him
out of a turquoise sky.