The tomb of the Unknown Warrior at Westminster Abbey will be among the settings for a Somme vigil (Photo: Centenary News)

Overnight vigils to mark 2016 Somme Centenary in UK

Posted on on 21 November 2015
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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 commemorative events on July 1st. There will 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.


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, London, will also be holding an evening programme of events explains Director-General Diane Lees: "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 from July 2nd - November 18th at 12 noon (local time) 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.

Vice Admiral Peter Wilkinson, National President of The Royal British Legion, said: "As the national custodian of Remembrance, The Royal British Legion is honoured to play a key role in the events commemorating the centenary of the Battle of the Somme. 

"It is of huge importance that we continue to recognise the sacrifices made by the hundreds of thousands who fell during the 141 days of the Battle, and that we make our commemorations relevant and accessible to all generations."

UK Communities interested in projects exploring the impact of the Battle of the Somme in the trenches or on the home front can apply for grants from the Heritage Lottery Fund's First World War: then & now programme.

Source: UK Government (Department for Culture, Media & Sport)

Images: Centenary News

Posted by: Peter Alhadeff, Centenary News