German troops to the southeast, at Verdun, were advancing further into French territory and the French Army was hurling itself at their lines to try and force the Germans to retreat. The entire idea behind the Somme offensive was to take pressure off the French forces at Verdun, while success or failure at the Somme was almost an afterthought. If there was any doubt in Foch’s mind, there does not seem so to those looking at the Somme from the remove of a century.
The movie “Goodbye Christopher Robin” is a movie about war. About a war so big, so terrible, that it defies description. It is also a movie about a society in denial, where the wounds of war are ever-present, but unseen –– in those who came back, but also in those who were left behind waiting for them. “Goodbye Christopher Robin” is a nuanced movie since the best way to talk about war is in a nuanced manner. The big dry numbers are lost on people –– one can’t grasp the millions, the faceless, uniformed icons, killed and wounded. The ferocity of war can never be truly described in anyway meaningful. On the contrary, the pyrotechnics of modern cinema might only cheapen it by making entertainment out of the unimaginable. Maybe war can better be understood by and about the individual. By one’s story; by one’s suffering. And the suffering that is best understood is not that experienced in war, but after it ends. It is also best understood by the suffering of loved ones; even those only born because of the war, never to be in it themselves.
Hugh Sebag-Montefiore took advantage of the Somme’s centenary year to publish "Somme: Into the Breach," a weighty and well-documented volume privileging the voices and accounts of the men who fought it. He uses letters and diaries to resurrect the combatants as real men, husbands and fathers, while showing us unflinchingly how they suffered and died.