Barnsley Pals Memorial, near Serre on the Somme - pictured on July 1st 2014, the 98th anniversary of the battle (Photo: Centenary News)

UK call for nationwide vigils to mark Somme Centenary

Posted on on 07 April 2016
Share |

Cities, towns and villages across Britain are being invited to come together to mark the 100th anniversary of the first day of the Battle of the Somme.

Communities are encouraged to remember the Somme by holding tributes 'in their own way', the UK Government says.

But the aim is for people to gather at a 'meaningful place', or in their homes, to light a candle, read a poem, listen to music or share a photo of a family member who fought in one of the costliest battles of the First World War.

The Royal British Legion has produced a toolkit to help those planning events.

Vigils held at sundown on June 30th 2016 - the eve of the Centenary - will "mirror the apprehension 100 years ago as those in the trenches waited anxiously for the 'zero hour' at 7.30am when they went over the top," the Government explains.

Almost 20,000 British troops were killed within a matter of hours on July 1st 1916, remembered as the British Army's bloodiest day.

Serre Road Cemetery No. 2 (Photo: Centenary News)

Culture Secretary John Whittingdale, the minister responsible for the UK's Centenary programme, said: "The Battle of the Somme left a deep mark on millions of families 100 years ago. I encourage communities across the country to come together to pay tribute to those who lost so much at the Somme and at home. 

"It is important that we never forget what happened on the battlefields and honour their memory and bravery for generations to come."

Remembrance events are also suggested on days between July 1st and November 18th - remembering that the Somme offensive lasted into late autumn 1916. 

Ideas and content can be found in the Royal British Legion toolkit, Remember the Battle of the Somme 1916-2016.
The UK Government has also produced an online commemoration guide for event updates and listings. 

The Right Reverend Nigel McCulloch, Head of Remembrance at the Royal British Legion said: "This year we are asking communities to host or take part in events to commemorate those who fell at the Battle of the Somme, which has come to symbolise the tragic scale and futility of modern industrialised warfare.

"The toolkit and indeed every other part of the Legion’s Somme remembrance activity has been designed to appeal as widely as possible, reflecting the losses that were felt by almost every community in the UK and Commonwealth. 

"Their collective sacrifice is as relevant today as ever but in this centenary year we pay special tribute to their Service."

In addition to local events, national vigils will be on June 30th 2016 at the following locations in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland: 

*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, Cardiff

There will also be a late night programme of music, art and poetry at the Imperial War Museum London, from 8pm-midnight on June 30th. We'll have more details of IWM's Somme Centenary programme in Centenary News.

The UK national commemorations take place in Manchester on July 1st.

On the Somme itself, Britain and France will hold a joint service of remembrance at the Thiepval Memorial. Admission is by ticket only - and tickets have already been allocated in a ballot.

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

Images: Centenary News

Posted by: CN Editorial Team