This Day in History: 1916-07-21

Battle of the Somme. In reserve trenches near Mametz Wood, the CO of the 7th South Lancashires is holding an officers’ O Group when an 8-inch shell bursts less than 15 yards away. It kills 2 officers, 10 men and 3 horses, and smashes a cooker and the officers’ mess cart. One of the officers killed is Lieutenant Henry Webber, the Transport Officer. He was either 67 or 68 years old, and arguably the oldest officer killed on active service in WWI. A former stockbroker from Surrey, after years of pestering the War Office he had finally been granted a commission less than 3 months before, and was proud of the fact that, had he met any of his 3 sons – 1 colonel and 2 majors, all of them serving in France – he would have had to salute them.