Press release

Public ballot for Somme commemorations opens

The public can now apply for tickets to attend Somme centenary commemorations in Thiepval next year.

Photo Credit: Imperial War Museum

The Culture Secretary, John Whittingdale, today opened the public ballot for tickets to attend the Battle of the Somme centenary commemorative event in Thiepval, in France, next year. The ballot will be open until 18 November, the day the battle ended in 1916.

The commemorative event will take place on 1 July 2016 at Thiepval. This will also be televised in neighbouring towns and throughout the UK .

Other events in France include:

  • A vigil at Thiepval on 30 June 2016 (please note that this will not be open to the public)
  • A small event at Thiepval each day from 2 July to 18 November 2016 to mark the 141 days of the battle.
  • Closing events on 18 November 2016 to mark the end of the Battle of the Somme.

The ballot for tickets to the commemorative event in Thiepval will run from 28 September to 18 November 2015.

The tickets will be allocated in pairs, free of charge. More details can be found on the Somme 2016 Ballot website at

The Battle of the Somme was one of the defining events of the First World War, resulting in over one million casualties. The Government recognises that the Somme holds a particular resonance for many people in the UK. It is important everyone has an opportunity to commemorate and take part in this centenary. An exciting and far-reaching programme of UK plans events will be announced in the coming months.

The Prime Minister David Cameron said:

“The First World War, with that mixture of horror and courage, suffering and hope, has become a fundamental part of our national consciousness. Perhaps nothing brings home the sheer scale of the sacrifice and loss more starkly than the Somme, a battle where 20,000 were killed in a single day.

“Next summer thousands will gather to mark the centenary of the battle at the memorial at the village of Thiepval in France.

“I hope many people will take the opportunity to travel to the Somme itself to remember those who fought but for those who wish to pay their respects here in Britain, there will also be events up and down the country commemorating this historic anniversary.”

Culture Secretary, John Whittingdale said

“The centenary event in Thiepval will be an opportunity to pay tribute to those who sacrificed so much at Somme and ensure that their legacy continues for generations. Now that the ballot is open, I hope people will apply for tickets for what I believe will be an incredibly important and deeply moving event.”

“But it’s not just about Thiepval - the events at the Battle of the Somme left a deep mark on the nation - almost everyone in the UK will have an ancestor who fought or died at the Somme. It’s important that everyone has the chance to remember and honour the sacrifices made both here and in France so I am delighted that in the coming months we will be announcing a further programme of events here in the UK to mark this centenary.”

French Secretary of State for Veterans and Remembrance Jean-Marc Todeschini said:

“A century ago, France and the UK fought side by side in the Battle of the Somme. In spite of the considerable means deployed at the time and the courage of the soldiers who fought there, the offensive resulted in nothing but a cruel and tragic disappointment. Now, a century later, France and Great Britain have a moral obligation to pay tribute to the millions of men who risked their lives on the Somme all those years ago.

The French government and all the local authorities in the region will be working closely with the Department for Culture, Media and Sports to prepare for the commemorations of the Battle of the Somme. Everything will be done to make this joint ceremony in Thiepval on 1 July 2016 a memorable occasion for the French and British people. No effort will be spared in France to welcome the families and descendants of those valiant soldiers of the Somme. On 1 July 2016, France and the United Kingdom have an appointment with their history.”

Vice Admiral Peter Wilkinson CB CVO, President of The Royal British Legion, said:

“The Royal British Legion is honoured to be involved in the organisation of the international, national and regional events to mark the centenary of the Battle the Somme; one of the most ferocious battles of the First World War where the Allied Forces lost over 615,000 lives. The commemorative events programme, both at the Thiepval Memorial and in the UK, will offer the public an opportunity to remember those that fell over the 141 days of continuous fighting, and also remember the suffering of the many who were wounded and survived. The Battle of the Somme took the lives of soldiers from almost every city, town and village across our country and we will remember them.”

Air Chief Marshal Sir Joe French KCB CBE, Vice-Chairman of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, said:

“We are honoured that this historic event will be hosted at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s Thiepval Memorial. Sir Edwin Lutyens’ monument is the largest Commonwealth war memorial in the world, and bears the names of 72,000 men who perished on the Somme and who have no known grave. It is also an enduring reminder of the alliance between the British and French armies during the First World War. It is uniquely fitting place at which to mark the centenary of the Battle of the Somme.

The war cemeteries on the Somme testify to the sacrifices of soldiers from across Britain and the Commonwealth during the battle, and we are proud to be their guardians. The events at Thiepval and across the battlefields over 141 days will ensure that all those who fought, on both sides, are not forgotten. Together, we will mark the sacrifices of those who served and honour those who lost their lives.”

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 in the Somme sector 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.

  • There will be a wide programme of events taking place in the UK and France to mark the centenary period plans will be announced in the next few months.
  • Apply for the ballot
  • General information on the Somme.
  • Information on the registration and entry process will be announced in September.

  • More details of visiting the region over the next year can be found on the Somme Department website here.
  • More information on the Thiepval Memorial can be found on the Commonwealth War Graves Commisson’s website.
Published 28 September 2015