At 7:30am on 1st July 1916, whistles blew along the Allied lines in France. By the end of the day, four members of my extended family had lost their lives.
ALBERT CONQUEST was my second cousin three times removed and was born on 28 June 1878 in the Cambridgeshire village of Over. Second of the nine children of Charles and Jane (nee Thoday), he was an agricultural labourer by the age of 12, according to the 1891 census. In 1899 he signed on in the Royal Navy as a stoker, being discharged in 1908. He returned to Over and was a bricklayer's labourer in 1911. When war came he enlisted in the 11th Battalion of the Suffolk Regiment, known as the Cambridgeshire Pals, and died on 1st July. Along with so many others he has no known grave and is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial.
CHARLES HILLS, my third cousin once removed, was born in Doddington, Cambs, in 1893, the sixth of ten children of George and Naomi (nee Wadlow). In 1901 the family was at Pannick Farm, and Charles was at school. They moved to Chatteris where, in 1911, Charles was a farm labourer. He too joined the Cambridgeshire Pals (11th Suffolks) and was a lance corporal at the time of his death. The Thiepval Memorial also bears his name.
FREDERICK GEORGE PATES was another third cousin, this time three times removed. He was the son of Frederick and Agnes (nee Tull) and was born in Shoreditch in 1881. The oldest of three sons, he grew up in Shoreditch and was a carman in 1901. He joined the Dorsetshire Regiment and died on the first day of the battle. He is buried in Serre Road Cemetery No. 2.
LIONEL ERIC BLAYDON was born in 1890 in Wandsworth, the second of eight children of Avey and Caroline (nee Rhind). He was my fourth cousin three times removed. By 1901 the family had moved to Chorlton-cum-Hardy in Lancashire and the 1911 census finds him boarding in Manchester, working as a shipper's clerk. His war service was with the 19th Manchesters until he too ended up on the Somme. His name is also on the Thiepval Memorial.
Somewhere in the region of 210, 000 Allied men lost their lives in the horror of 1st July 1916.
We will remember them.