The King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry at War, 1916

1916 was a year of heavy losses and more change for the King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry (K.O.Y.L.I.) as the British Expeditionary Force (B.E.F), working alongside the Allies, tried to break the stalemate that had been reached by the end of 1915.

Seven K.O.Y.L.I. battalions stationed in France spent the beginning of 1916 training for the ‘Big Push’ on the Somme on 1 July. Although its small but significant gains did help the Allied advance, the Battle of the Somme was to have a devastating impact on the K.O.Y.L.I., and the British Army in general. Over 1500 K.O.Y.L.I. soldiers were reported missing, wounded or dead on the first day of the Battle alone.

We didn’t realise then what was in the offing, but we soon learned because we started making preparations, preparing for a really big affair…In the meantime there was a constant procession of guns, guns, guns going up. Instead of the big guns that used to lie right back – miles back – they were bringing them right up, right up into the front.

Donald Murray, 8th Battalion K.O.Y.L.I. (Interviewed 1973)

British sentry going up to his post; near Beaumont Hamel, July 1916. Imperial War Museum © IWM(Q 729)