The nation will mark the centenary of the Battle of the Somme at events in France, London and Manchester today.
The UK Government, in collaboration with the French Government, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, Westminster Abbey, Royal British Legion and Manchester City Council, will host three events to mark one of the defining battles of the First World War.
The commemorative events include:
- An evening service at Westminster Abbey on 30 June attended by HM The Queen followed by an overnight vigil at the Grave of the Unknown Warrior.
- A commemorative service at the Thiepval Memorial in France that will tell the story of the Somme through cultural and military content, including hymns, readings and music.
- A national commemorative event in Manchester that will include a Home Front and military parade, a wreath laying Cenotaph Service, a service at Manchester Cathedral and an evening concert at Heaton Park.
The Battle of the Somme began at 7.30am on 1 July 1916 and lasted for 141 days, resulting in over one million casualties on all sides. Today, the nation will remember those who lost their lives and loved ones on the French battlefields.
Prime Minister David Cameron said:
Today is a chance to reflect on the sacrifice not just of the thousands of British and Commonwealth troops who gave their lives, but of the men on all sides who did not return home. It is an opportunity to think about the impact of the devastation felt by communities across all of the nations involved, which left mothers without sons, wives without husbands and children without fathers.
The young men who left our shores believed in the cause for which they fought and we honour their memory. But today is also a chance to stand as friends with the representatives of all the countries who are here today. This event and the Thiepval monument itself bear testament to a solemn pledge – those who died here will never be forgotten.
Culture Secretary John Whittingdale said:
Today we take time to reflect upon the enormous courage of those who fought for us 100 years ago. We must never forget the sacrifice they made for us.
The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall, The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Prince Harry and The Duke and Duchess of Gloucester will attend the commemorative event in France with the Prime Minister David Cameron and French President Francois Hollande. They will be joined by Heads of States and representatives from the nations who fought in the battle, as well as French, British and Irish schoolchildren, descendants of those who fought and members of the public.
A short film featuring descendants of men who fought in the battle.
Notes to Editors:
The Thiepval Memorial was built and is maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. It is the largest Commonwealth war memorial in the world and bears the names of more than 72,000 men who died at the Somme and who have no known grave. The memorial was designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens and was unveiled on 1 August 1932 by Edward, Prince of Wales. Thiepval is both a memorial to the missing and a monument commemorating the alliance between the British Empire and France. Beside the memorial is a cemetery with equal numbers of Commonwealth and French graves, brought together from all over the battlefield.
The Thiepval Somme centenary commemorative event is hosted by the French and UK Governments, working in partnership with the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC); and The Royal British Legion (RBL). Further details can be found here.
There will be an act of commemoration held daily for the duration of the battle, hosted by The Royal British Legion. Guests are required to register their attendance for the events between 2 July and 18 November at the RBL website.
More details of visiting the region can be found on the Somme website at www.somme1418.com.
More information on the Thiepval Memorial can be found here.
More information on educational resources for schools connected to the Battle of the Somme can be found at www.britishcouncil.org.
Participants in the video include Clive Adlam, whose father Tom Adlam was awarded the Victoria Cross for his part in taking a German trench. David Guyon, whose grandfather Major George Sutherland Guyon was killed in action on the first day, while leading the Bradford Pals.
It also features five year old Oscar Varns whose great great great uncle Ernest Copley was killed on 1 July 1916 at Fricourt is among the youngest participants along with Francesca Loades, also aged five, whose great great grandfather Knightley Barlow survived. Between them they read from the Laurence Binyon poem For The Fallen
Others include Nana Twumasi-Ankrah, a current serving solider with the British Army and Leicester schoolgirls Inas Issuf and Zakiyah Xecur who, with fellow pupils at Moat Community College, are learning about the 77 old boys who died during the First World War.
DCMS News and Communication
Media enquiries: 020 7211 6263 (out of hours telephone pager: 07699 751153) Public enquiries: 020 7211 6000