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Battle of the Somme commemoration vigil at Delhi War Cemetery

Countries which participated in the Somme will be represented along with others who have a specific connection or interest.

The UK is organising an inclusive event to commemorate the centenary of the start of the Battle of the Somme at the Commonwealth War Graves Delhi War Cemetery on 30 June 2016.

Acting British High Commissioner to India Dr Alexander Evans OBE and Defence Adviser Brigadier Mark Goldsack CBE will be present.

Dr Evans said:

The first day of the Battle of the Somme was quite simply the costliest in British military history. Twenty thousand British and Commonwealth troops lost their lives on that single day. By the time the battle was halted 141 days later a million men on both sides were wounded, captured or killed. It is this, the human impact of the battle, that we will commemorate at the Delhi War Cemetery when we gather for our vigil, as the men in France would have gathered the night before battle in 1916.

This non-religious service will be a poignant combination of short readings, verses, laying of flowers and paying of respects within the setting of the Delhi War Cemetery. The service will be followed by a short ‘gunfire tea’.

The regimental song, ‘The Lads in their Hundreds’ will be performed at the end. George Butterworth, who set the poem to music, was himself to die at the Somme, killed by sniper fire on 5th August 1916. The Last Post and Reveille will be played by 2 Buglers from 2 Rifles, our resident Canadian Piper will play a lament to The Fallen and guests will be invited to lay flowers on each of the WW1 headstones, lit by hurricane lamps.

In the UK, similar events will take place starting on the evening of 30 June, with overnight vigils held at the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing of the Somme in Northern France and across the UK. The vigils will be replicated in other significant sites and places of worship around the world with the aim of allowing as many people as possible to come together to pay tribute to those lost at the Somme. A number of other WW1 commemoration events are planned between now and November 2018 in India and other countries involved in The Great War.

Further information:

The event is being organised by the British High Commission and will be held on Thursday 30 June 2016 at 2330 to 0030 hrs.

The Battle of the Somme was one of the most significant battles of the First World War. The UK government has a programme of events to mark the centenary of the Battle of the Somme. Events will also be taking place across the battlefields at Commonwealth War Graves Commission cemeteries and memorials. Beginning on 1 July 1916 and intended to achieve a decisive victory for the British and French, the battle became a bloody stalemate on battlegrounds that turned into a muddy quagmire after torrential rains in October of that year. The battle claimed more than a million casualties on both sides by the time it ended on 18 November 1916.

In India, on 30 October 2014, the British High Commission and United Service Institution of India (USI) jointly held a commemoration function at the British High Commissioner’s residence, at which then Defence Minister Arun Jaitley, Army Chief General Dalbir Singh, some serving and retired officers were invited. War diaries of Indian regiments, which fought in WW 1, compiled and reproduced by British High Commission and USI, were presented to their officers. Minister Jaitley later announced that all war records involving the Indian Army would be digitised.

The regimental song at the 30 June vigil will be sung by Bhanu Sharma, Sonal Sikka will play the piano.

George Butterworth, the English composer, fought and died at the Somme. Shortly before the war, Butterworth set the Shropshire Lad poems to music including the elegiac song for soldiers, ‘The lads in their hundreds’ (lyrics below). As Butterworth is one of those who died at the Somme the performance of this song will make a moving and authentic centrepiece for the vigil.

The lads in their hundreds to Ludlow come in for the fair,
There's men from the barn and the forge and the mill and the fold,
The lads for the girls and the lads for the liquor are there,
And there with the rest are the lads that will never be old.
There's chaps from the town and the field and the till and the cart,
And many to count are the stalwart, and many the brave,
And many the handsome of face and the handsome of heart,
And few that will carry their looks or their truth to the grave.
I wish one could know them, I wish there were tokens to tell
The fortunate fellows that now you can never discern;
And then one could talk with them friendly and wish them farewell
And watch them depart on the way that they will not return.
But now you may stare as you like and there's nothing to scan;
And brushing your elbow unguessed-at and not to be told
They carry back bright to the coiner the mintage of man,
The lads that will die in their glory and never be old.

For media queries, please contact:

Kitty Tawakley
Press and Communications
British High Commission,
Chanakyapuri, New Delhi 110021
Tel: 44192100; Fax: 24192411

Mail to: Upendra Singh

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