UK

Battle of the Somme centenary to be marked by UK vigils

  • 20 November 2015
  • From the section UK
WW1 Allied troops leave a trench in France during World War One Image copyright PA
Image caption WW1 Allied troops leave a trench before the Battle of Morval, which took place as part of the Battle of the Somme in 1916

All-night vigils will be held across the UK next summer to mark the centenary of the Battle of the Somme in World War One.

A national vigil is to be held on 30 June at Westminster Abbey, London, with overnight events being held in Edinburgh, Cardiff and Co Down.

There will also be a commemorative service the following day at Manchester Cathedral.

There were more than 600,000 British and French casualties in the battle.

Announcing the commemorations, Culture Secretary John Whittingdale said: "We must never forget the scale of what happened at the Somme.

"More died on the first day of battle than any other day of the First World War. Almost every family in the country was touched by the devastating losses.

"I hope people of all generations up and down the country will have the chance to attend an event and honour the bravery of those who sacrificed so much."

The overnight vigils on 30 June will take place at:

  • Westminster Abbey around the Grave of the Unknown Warrior
  • The Scottish National War Memorial in Edinburgh Castle
  • Clandeboye and Helen's Tower, Co Down, Northern Ireland, in association with the Somme Heritage Centre
  • The Welsh National War Memorial, in Cardiff

There will also be a programme of overnight events at the Imperial War Museum in London that night.

The commemorative service will be held on 1 July at Manchester Cathedral, followed by a procession through the city to Heaton Park.

And further events will take place at Commonwealth War Graves Commission cemeteries and memorials.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Poppies growing on the edge of a field near the Thiepval Memorial in northern France

The government had already announced plans for an event on 1 July at Thiepval in northern France, where a memorial holds the names of 72,000 fallen soldiers who have no known graves.

Around 10,000 people are expected to attend next year's event at the memorial, with 8,000 selected by ballot.

The Battle of the Somme began on 1 July 1916 and did not end until 18 November that year.

The aim of the offensive was to achieve a clear victory for the British and French, but the campaign turned into a stalemate, with soldiers struggling to gain any ground after heavy rains in October.

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