With so many people in the UK having a close link to the battle of the Somme, the Government and The Royal British Legion are working together to encourage communities across the country to mark the battle in their own way.
This can be through a vigil at sundown on 30 June or during 1 July, or with a Remembrance event on one of the 141 days that battle raged until 18 November.
The ambition is for villages, towns and cities across the UK to gather at a meaningful place or in their home, to light a candle, read a poem, listen to music, share a photo of a family member who fought at the Somme.
The vigils 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 Battle of the Somme spanned 141 days and to help communities host Remembrance events in their own way throughout this period, The Royal British Legion has launched a toolkit – Remember the Battle of the Somme 1916-2016.
Available to pre-order in hardcopy and to download here, it features everything needed to host a Somme commemoration including Remembrance event content ideas, a concise history of the Somme, the Act of Remembrance, a souvenir ‘1916’ newspaper, promotional event materials including posters and news releases and a box of poppy petals for scattering at events, among other information and tips.
Culture Secretary John Whittingdale 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.”
To see all of the local vigils and events and for more ideas on marking the Somme, please visit the Somme UK Commemoration Guide here.
For commemorations on 1 July, a key moment will be the four minutes leading up to 7:30am on 1 July, which communities can recreate in their own way. It begins with the sound of WW1 artillery fire for a few minutes, reminiscent of the weeklong artillery bombardment leading up to the Battle, then a minutes silence, a reading in reflection and then the sound of one long whistle blow.
In the afternoon and evening of the 1st July, Manchester will be hosting The National Commemoration of the Centenary of the Battle of the Somme. This will include a parade of military and home front organisations, a Remembrance service at Manchester Cathedral, and a heritage experience and evening concert at Heaton Park. Tickets for the free public commemorative evening concert, which features the Halle Orchestra, a national children’s choir, film, dance and spoken word, can be booked here: www.quaytickets.com/sommeheatonpark/Online/default.asp
With some 300,000 memorials and graves in the UK, no one is very far from a place to gather to remember the First World War. Communities wishing to reconnect with the forgotten front, those who died of their injuries on home soil, can contact the Commonwealth War Graves Commission Living Memory project, also launched today.
The Right Reverend Nigel McCulloch KCVO, 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.”