Somme to Versailles

Wednesday 9th November 2016;  John Robson: “Somme to Versailles”

John Robson
Probian, John Robson, with Probus President, Paul Gallagher

The talk for Remembrance Day was given by John Robson, a Probus member with a keen interest in military and naval history.  He began by recounting the part played by the Royal Navy in 1915 in Churchill’s ill-conceived plan to send a fleet of warships up the Dardanelles to capture Constantinople.   To say that the Turks saw them coming understates the extent to which the defending armies were ready for the onslaught.   After ignominious defeat and huge losses, the British forces withdrew and Churchill was sacked as First Lord of the Admiralty.

The Battle of the Somme in the summer of 1916 was little different in the sense that gallant soldiers were sent over the top to attack well defended German lines only to be mown down in their thousands by lethal machine gun fire.  On the first day of the Battle allied forces sustained over 250,000 casualties,  by the time the battle had been declared “won” four months later on 14th November, the the casualty figures had topped 400,000 and 6 miles of land had been gained.  The arrival of American troops in April 1917 turned the tide and hostilities ceased on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month 1918.  The very severe terms imposed on Germany by the  Treaty of Versailles came into effect on 17th January 1920 and can be seen in hindsight to have sown the seeds of the World War II.  John was thanked for his erudite talk by Probian, Gerry Norton.