Panorama No.1: Gommecourt The Zero Hour Panoramas (2016)
Jolyon Fenwick (1971-)
Pigmented ink print annotated by hand in Indian ink; edition of 20; signed on the verso
Newly-framed as pictured
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To view all 14 of the Zero Hour Panoramas, please go to www.zerohourpanoramas.com.
The early mist had almost gone and the sun was high enough to give warmth when the appointed moment came and, against a sky ‘of a kind commonly described as heavenly’, 60,000 men, in good faith and bad boots, climbed out of their trenches and advanced on the German lines. It was 7.30am British Summer Time, 1st July 1916. Zero Hour. By nightfall, out of a total of 116,000 British and Empire soldiers committed to the battle that day, 57,470 had become casualties. 19,240 were dead. It was, and remains, the costliest day in British military history (Abridged from Zero Hour: Views from the Parapet of the Somme by Jolyon Fenwick – published by Profile Books 2016).
The 14 panoramic photographs in the Zero Hour series (exhibited at the Sladmore Gallery in London on 30 June 2016 to mark the centenary of the battle of the Somme) were taken by Fenwick at the exact position (and time) from which 14 battalions attacked in the first wave on the morning of the first day of the battle of the Somme. In the manner of battlefield panoramas of the time, they are annotated by hand with the points of tactical significance (invariably christened by the soldiers themselves) as they existed immediately before the battle.
This, Panorama No.1, was taken by Jolyon just west of Wood Street trench: the jump-off point at Zero Hour of the 12th Battalion The London Regiment (The Rangers) of the Territorial 56th (London) Division. This northernmost attack on the Somme battle front was diversionary – intended to draw German resources away from the assault on the village of Serre further south. The ruse failed (the Germans here considered themselves more than adequately defended) and out of the division’s 6,200 soldiers that attacked, drawn mostly from the capital’s commercial classes, over 4,000 were killed or wounded. The cemetery in the panorama is Gommecourt British Cemetery No. 2. 1,357 men are buried here,
most of whom are soldiers from the 56th Division, killed on 1 July.