The Battle of the Somme is notable for resulting in the largest loss of life in a singe battle. An estimated 20,000 were killed on the first day alone.
Soldiers and officers tried many things to keep up morale and to spur themselves on. One incident from the opening day of the battle was the ‘Football Charge’ led by men of the 8th Battalion East Surrey Regiment, in which many men from around Richmond served.
Soldiers in the regiment dribbled two footballs across No Man’s Land as they advanced towards the German trenches. On one ball was written ‘The Great European Cup-Tie Final. East Surreys v Barbarians. Kick off at zero.’ on the other ‘No Referee‘.
More detail about this event can be found on the Exploring Surrey’s Past website.
The Commonwealth War Grave Commission website identifies 141 men of the East Surreys killed on the first day of the Somme. The majority are listed on the Thiepval Memorial, which commemorates soldiers with no known grave. The memorial bears the names of 72,000 men killed in fighting around the Somme between July 1916 and March 1918.