5 – A Passage to India

quetta valley
Quetta Valley and the Sulaiman Mountains,  North Western India, 1917


A week prior to Will Grummett’s receipt of his commission, in July of 1916, the Allied armies began an assault on the Western Front referred to as the Somme Offensive or the Battle of the Somme. What was planned as an all out assault in an effort to end the war became a protracted battle lasting from July to November of 1916. This battle would mark perhaps the lowest point of the war for British soldiers and citizens. To this day the Battle of the Somme ranks as one of the bloodiest of battles in the history of mankind, consuming 1.2 million lives. The final outcome amounted to a few hundred yards advance and was, little more than continued stalemate on the Western Front.

This was the nature of the theatre of war to which I am certain Will Grummett thought he was going: a killing field in which British soldiers and their officers, “had enthusiasm and little else” (Taylor, 1985). Officers in particular were trained to, “expose themselves recklessly – hence officer casualties were often six times greater than those of other ranks.” (Taylor, 1985) By assuming the role of a junior officer and therefore a platoon commander, Will had put himself in the, “most dangerous position in the British Army.” (Hughes-Wilson, 2014). Continue reading “5 – A Passage to India”