The Imperial War Museum will be among venues remembering the eve of the Somme offensive in 1916 (Photo: Centenary News)

Night vigils launch Somme Centenary commemorations

Date of Event: 30 June 2016
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Public vigils will be held overnight across the UK on June 30th 2016 to mark the centenary of the Battle of the Somme. 

The British Government says the aim is to allow as many people as possible to come together and pay tribute to those lost in the four-month offensive of 1916.

Manchester will host the UK's national commemorations on July 1st. There'll be a parade through the city centre, a remembrance service at Manchester Cathedral and a free concert in Heaton Park, which was used for military training in WW1.

An Anglo-French remembrance service at the Thiepval Memorial on the Somme that day has already been announced. The ballot for tickets closed on November 18th.

Devastating

The British Army suffered its worst losses on the first day of the Battle of the Somme - almost 20,000 men died, more than 38,000 were wounded or missing. 

In all, the fighting on the Somme from July-November 1916 cost more than a million British, Commonwealth, French and German casualties (soldiers killed, wounded or missing).

Announcing the UK's centenary commemorations, Culture Secretary John Whittingdale said: "We must never forget the scale of what happened at the Somme. More died on the first day of battle than any other day of the First World War. Almost every family in the country was touched by the devastating losses.

"I hope people of all generations up and down the country will have the chance to attend an event and honour the bravery of those who sacrificed so much.”

The overnight vigils on June 30th 2016 and will be held at:

*Westminster Abbey, around the Grave of the Unknown Warrior

*The Scottish National War Memorial at Edinburgh Castle

*Clandeboye and Helen’s Tower, County Down, Northern Ireland - in association with the Somme Heritage Centre

*The Welsh National War Memorial in Cardiff

IWM London

The Imperial War Museum in London will also be hosting an evening programme of events, including screenings of the 1916 documentary film, Battle of the Somme

Director-General Diane Lees said: "IWM was originally established while the First World War was still being fought to remember those who lived, fought, died and survived in the conflict. 

"A century later, we continue to do just that and encourage as many people as possible to join us."

Autumn 2016

Commemorations will continue into the autumn of 2016 to underline the length of the Battle of the Somme. These include:

*The Royal British Legion and Commonwealth War Graves Commission hosting a daily remembrance ceremony at Thiepval at 11am GMT (12 CET) from  July 2nd - November 18th to mark the 141 days of battle. 

*Communities throughout the UK are encouraged to host local events linking to the ceremonies in Thiepval.

*There will be a number of events taking place across the battlefields at CWGC cemeteries and memorials, and the CWGC will be supporting organisations planning events.

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