Candlelit vigil commemorates Battle of Somme

The Battle of the Somme , National Memorial Arboretum
The Battle of the Somme Credit: National Memorial Arboretum

The National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire commemorates the centenary of the first day of the Battle of the Somme with a candlelit vigil.

The Battle of the Somme , National Memorial Arboretum
The Battle of the Somme Credit: National Memorial Arboretum

On the eve of the 100th anniversary of the beginning of the Battle of the Somme, a candlelit vigil will be held at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire to remember the soldiers who were waiting to go into what would become the bloodiest battle in British military history.

The battle began on July 1, 1916, and when it ended 140 days later, more than a million soldiers had been killed – one of the bloodiest battles in history.

It was the first major engagement involving the men who volunteered to fight in 1914 and 1915 and the huge death toll brought the war home for many people in Britain for the First World War.

The vigil will be held tomorrow (Thursday, June 30), at 9pm, in the arboretum’s amphitheatre and will mark the start of a strong, five-month programme of Somme 100 commemorative events.

The service is free-to-attend and will include readings, poetry and music, and visitors can take part in Battle of the Somme guided walks around the 150-acre arboretum, from 7.30pm.

Sarah Montgomery, managing director of the arboretum, said: “The candlelit vigil will provide an atmospheric opportunity for reflection and remembrance on the eve of the 100th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme, which claimed hundreds of thousands of lives.

“We hope that many people will join us for this special service as we remember all those who were waiting to go into what turned out to be the bloodiest battle in British history.”

On July 1, a large-scale commemoration service will take place at the arboretum to remember those who fought at the Battle of the Somme in 1916, followed by a live-linked televised showing of the international Service of Remembrance, hosted by the French and UK Governments, at the Thiepval Monument in northern France.

On the morning of the 1 July the grounds will open at 7am to the public who are invited to watch the arboretum’s symbolic whistle-blowing event, which will see school children from across the area mark the moment 100 years ago when whistles were blown along the British frontline at 7.30am on July 1 1916, driving thousands of troops out of the trenches and into No Man’s Land at the start of the Battle of the Somme.

National Memorial Arboretum will host daily commemoration services, a Battle of the Somme installation, walks, talks and more marking each day of the battle.

Location: National Memorial Arboretum, Croxall Road, Alrewas, Staffordshire, DE13 7AR, UK

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