A century ago to-day the most bloody battle that Europe has ever seen began.
An artillery barrage lasting for seven days pounded dug-in German positions, before the signal for soldiers to advance across the shattered landscape of North East France was given.
At 07:30hrs the crash of artillery fire paused and the shrill sound of tin whistles ordered men forward.
Within seconds the mournful whistles were replaced by the stutter of machine guns.
24 hours later 19,240 British and Empire soldiers were dead.
The French Army had lost 1,590; 12,00 German soldiers also died.
The battle raged for a further 140 days and by the time it dwindled to a muddy stalemate over 300,000 men from both Britain, Germany and France had perished and a further 700,000 wounded.
Two words resonate through history and represent the horror, waste and futility of War:
Today Europe is united in remembrance.
May the lessons of the past guide our actions in the present and the future.
Lest we forget.