The Battle of the Somme lasted from July 1st 1916 until November 1916 and for many, epitomised the horrors of trench warfare. This famous battle is marked as being particularly brutal, with over 600,000 casualties on the Allied side. The psychological impact can be seen from contemporary sources, such as the one by Edward Lynch: “It’s the end of the 1916 winter and the conditions are almost unbelievable. We live in a world of Somme mud. We sleep in it, work in it, fight in it, wade in it and many of us die in it. We see it, feel it, eat it and curse it, but we can’t escape it, not even by dying.”
Construction of the Somme exhibit began on June 13th and since then there have been many changes made to the former builders’ workshop. The primary person responsible for this is Rebecca, Assistant Curator, who has also been involved with the Royal Engineers’ Friday Selfie Facebook campaign.
Naturally, turning a room designed for storage and building work into an exhibition room has had some challenges. So far, Rebecca and the others have had to account for the floor which was more suited for tools and paint after all these years but which will be shiny and clean by the time the exhibition opens. As well as this, they have even put a wall in place for the display. Nevertheless, the room is bright and just across from the exhibition on bridging, making it easy to spot from the entrance. Besides the information panels and the cased items, there are plans to place large exhibits around the room of items used in the battle. In fact, this is one of the biggest draws of this exhibition; uncased displays will include items actually used in the Battle of the Somme such as the duckboard panels put down in the trenches, stretchers and German machine gun and armour. Most exciting of all, and taking up a large portion of the room will be a large flamethrower facing out into the room.
So far, there have been several targets for the exhibition:
• The panels had finished being put in place on June 17th, 2015.
• The exhibits themselves will be in place by June 24th.
• The whole exhibit will have finished being completed on June 25th.
Rebecca and others responsible for the construction of the exhibition hope that it will be a snapshot into the reality of the battle. The exhibition will have something for the keen historian who will be able to view items, as well as for those wishing to learn more about this famous battle.
The exhibition will open on June 25th and if you want to see updates on the construction of the exhibition as well as regular posts of our Friday Selfies, visit our Facebook page: www.facebook.com/RoyalEngineersMuseum/.