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Battle of the Somme centenary: Memorial ticket ballot opens

British infantry in the Battle of Somme

Tickets for centenary commemorations of the Battle of the Somme have been made available by ballot.

Residents of the UK, France and Irish Republic can now apply for free tickets for the ceremony at Thiepval Memorial in France on 1 July 2016.

The Somme was one of the bloodiest battles of World War One with more than one million casualties over 141 days.

The online ballot will be open until 18 November - the day the battle ended in 1916.

The government announced the ballot for pairs of free tickets in July.

'Sacrificed so much'

The British suffered about 420,000 casualties and the French nearly 200,000 during the Battle of the Somme.

A ceremony is held at the Thiepval Memorial every year, but the joint Anglo-French centenary event will be on a larger scale.

Some 10,000 people are expected to attend the memorial, with 8,000 selected by ballot.

The monument, erected in 1932, includes the graves of 600 British and French soldiers, along with the names of 72,000 more who died engraved onto the stone.

Other events taking place next year in France include a vigil in Thiepval on 30 June and small events each day from 2 July to 18 November to mark the 141 days of the battle.

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."

Mr Whittingdale added that the government would be announcing a "programme of events" to mark the centenary in the UK in the coming months.

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