One of the great tragic realisations when dealing with commemorating the Great War is that exactly one hundred years ago today (16th March) in 1916 is not yet halfway through the war itself. Yet even by this relatively early stage the level of casualties is above and beyond anything experienced by any of the participating nations before. Saracens was not divorced from this tragedy, having already lost a number of their finest players, either killed, wounded or classed as that most tragic of terms ‘missing.’ For this reason it is important to ensure that commemorations of the sacrifice made by those young men continues throughout the centenary years, not merely clustered as a morbid bookmark at either end.
As mentioned in a previous post, 1916 was to become known as the bloodiest year of the war. Much of the public commemoration will focus around the 1st of July, the first day of The Somme and ‘the bloodiest day in the history of the British Army.’
Many of the stories that we have been following in the blog so far lead to The Somme, as a vast number of the battalions in the British army rotated through it is only natural that a good number of our Saracens would find themselves in Battalions in what was often described as a hell on earth.We will trace their history over this coming year and are looking at putting together, if possible, a list of those Saracens who found themselves in the attack on the 1st of July.
One important way that the rugby community is showing its respect this year is through the dedicating of the ‘Rose and Poppy Gates’ at Twickenham, which will be formally opened on the 29th of April.
They are to be located near the Lion Gate (West Stand), and are cast in bronze and Steel incorporating some of the original brass from WW1 Shells. The gates are not exclusively around sacrifice in WW1, or purely dedicated to internationals, but are designed to commemorate all members of the rugby family who have lost their lives in war. In addition the World Rugby Museum also continues to display the ‘Lest We Forget’ exhibition, featuring Saracens including Sydney Sylvester, Charles Dearing and Victor Baron Barnett.
Next time you are at Twickenham, please have a quick look for the gate; pause a while; and remember those who have gone before you and never returned.