The worst day: How Yorkshire joined our nation in marking 100 years of The Somme

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Yorkshire and the nation has fallen silent to honour thousands of soldiers killed in the Battle of the Somme 100 years after the bloodiest day in British military history.

Ceremonies across the county and country honoured the hundreds of thousands of victims of the brutal offensive which started in northern France on July 1 1916.

The two-minute silence ended at 7.30am, the time when the British, Commonwealth and French forces went “over the top” a century ago.

The British Army suffered almost 60,00 casualties on the first day alone and more than a million men would be killed or wounded on both sides over the course of the 141-day offensive.

The silence came after a night-long vigil led in Britain by the Queen and at the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing of the Somme, which towers over the rolling Picardy fields where so many fell.

Senior royals and politicians led tributes as the nation fell silent.

The service to mark the 100th anniversary of the start of the battle of the Somme at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission Memorial in Thiepval, France, where 70,000 British and Commonwealth soldiers with no known grave are commemorated.

The service to mark the 100th anniversary of the start of the battle of the Somme at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission Memorial in Thiepval, France, where 70,000 British and Commonwealth soldiers with no known grave are commemorated.

Prime Minister David Cameron, French president Francois Hollande, the Dukes and Duchesses of Cornwall and Cambridge, and Prince Harry, led 10,000 guests gathered at the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing of the Somme that towers over the battlefield in France.

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The service to mark the 100th anniversary of the start of the battle of the Somme at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission Memorial in Thiepval, France, where 70,000 British and Commonwealth soldiers with no known grave are commemorated.

The service to mark the 100th anniversary of the start of the battle of the Somme at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission Memorial in Thiepval, France, where 70,000 British and Commonwealth soldiers with no known grave are commemorated.

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The service to mark the 100th anniversary of the start of the battle of the Somme at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission Memorial in Thiepval, France, where 70,000 British and Commonwealth soldiers with no known grave are commemorated.

The service to mark the 100th anniversary of the start of the battle of the Somme at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission Memorial in Thiepval, France, where 70,000 British and Commonwealth soldiers with no known grave are commemorated.

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View and download original reports from the Somme as they appeared in The Yorkshire Post in July, 1916

A lone bugler marked the moment just before 7.30am in City Square, Leeds as the hustle and bustle of early morning city life came to a momentary, and poignant, standstill.

At Leeds Minster, the focus was on Corporal George Sanders, who was awarded the Victoria Cross for his bravery in France on July 1, 1916.

A commemorative paving stone at the foot of the war memorial was unveiled by his granddaughter Wendy Waterland in recognition of his extraordinary courage in driving off an attack in which he was hugely outnumbered, and rescuing prisoners who had fallen into their hands.

After receiving his Victoria Cross at Buckingham Palace in November 1916 from the King, the then 22 year-old even returned to the front and was later held as a prisoner of war in Limburg.

The service to mark the 100th anniversary of the start of the battle of the Somme at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission Memorial in Thiepval, France, where 70,000 British and Commonwealth soldiers with no known grave are commemorated.

The service to mark the 100th anniversary of the start of the battle of the Somme at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission Memorial in Thiepval, France, where 70,000 British and Commonwealth soldiers with no known grave are commemorated.

Mrs Waterland said the plaque gesture - and the day’s commemorations - were of “huge importance”.

“Obviously my granddad lived through the war but for those who perished it’s a day that should never be forgotten,” she said.

“I have always been proud of the fact that my granddad was awarded the VC but the true implications behind it I don’t think ever really made much of an impact when I was younger.

“I’m just immensely proud that I’m here to be able to do it, and they’ve laid it here, where I can come and have a look whenever I go past.”

Leading prayers at Leeds Minster, Canon Sam Corley gave thanks for “the life and example of George” and his colleagues on the front who didn’t make it homes.

“Today is a significant day for the life of the nation, 100 years since the battle of the Somme,” he said.

“Perhaps in these days more then ever, we need to be reminded of the effects of division and posturing within and between nations, and so we gather to remember and to reflect and to consider how we wish to live differently in the light of the events of the past.”

Councillor Jack Dunn, representing Leeds City Council, reflected on his own father’s military service throughout the battle.

“Leeds alone lost 10,000 of its sons, and today across the city we will therefore remember those who fought for their country on this day 100 years ago.” he said,

Among the onlookers was Joyce Sundram, who said: “It was my privilege to come here this morning.

“It was a very poignant ceremony and I thought that it properly honoured all those who fought and gave their lives, and those who survived.

“My father Sidney Hickes served in the First World War. He came back relatively unscathed, but his younger brother Gordon Hickes - who was underage when he went - did not survive.”

Similar memorials were repeated across Yorkshire as an original Somme whistle was blown by Capt Alex Redshaw from the Yorkshire Regiment at the York War Memorial.

In Sheffield, hundreds gathered in the summer sunshine to pay their respects.

People watching the service at Weston Park wiped away tears as they remembered the hundreds of young men who went off to war, never to return to the city.

Some of those at the memorial service were the sons and daughters, now aged in their 70s and 80s, of men who lost their lives.

Around 500 members of the Sheffield City Battalion – the Sheffield Pals – were casualties on the first day of battle. Around 5,000 men from the city died during World War One.

Lord Mayor Coun Denise Fox paid tribute to those who died before a moving rendition of The Last Post.

Brenda Sunderland’s father fought on the Somme and was injured by shrapnel in No Man’s Land. The 83-year-old, from Gleadless, came to pay her respects.

She said: “My father tried twice to sign up before he was 18 and they didn’t let him the first time.

“He was a runner in the trenches passing messages to the senior figures. They gave him that job because he was a small man, he was only 5ft 2ins.

“He got injured going over the top and I can always remember as a girl the hole in his back where the shrapnel got him.

“Coming to things like this makes you thank God I don’t have to send my children and grandchildren off to fight in wars.”

Herbert Hallows, 77, of Wincobank, served in the Green Howards and was based in Germany during his military career.

He said: “The service was very moving, it was very well organised and everyone who took part should be very proud.

“It’s shocking to know that some of these lads at the Somme were only 17 or 18. They were just boys who should have had their lives in front of them.”

Ray Cundy, from Watherthorpe, a member of the British Legion, said: “I think it’s great we’ve got so many schoolchildren here today.

“It’s vital they hear the stories of the Somme and the world wars in general.

“We must never forget these brave young lads.”

Sheila Gascoigne, aged 75, of Ecclesall, attended the service to remember her father, Private Oliver Slack who was aged 20 when he was wounded on the first day of the Somme. He was lucky to come home alive.

“He was shot in the chest by the Germans after going over the top and realised he couldn’t go on. He’d only been in France a week,” said Sheila.

“He managed to get back to the trenches and he was taken to hospital where he was put in a section of the ward where they thought the injured soldiers wouldn’t make it.

“But next day, he was still alive and they started to treat him. He was then sent back to England and spent a couple of years in hospital but managed to recover.

“I’ve come to remember him and others who weren’t so lucky. It was a lovely service, it was very moving.”

Sheffield Council has given Weston Park centenary field status to commemorate the sacrifice.

In Barnsley, the faces of some of the Pals who died at the Somme were faces engraved on panels outside the Town Hall.

The temporary public artwork honours the 297 men who fell on the first day. It will be lit at night and remain on display until mid-November, as a reminder that the battle latest for nearly five months.

In London, people lined Parliament Square to pay tribute, where the two-minute reflection was marked with the sound of gunfire.

People huddled under trees and umbrellas paused from their commutes to stand quietly.

The King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery were present, having been at Thiepval on Thursday night.

The soldiers manned three sets of guns, drawn into place by horses, and fired every four seconds for 100 seconds to mark the silence.

Whistles were blown and Big Ben chimed when the two minutes were over, though many still continued to pause in reflection.

Prince Charles, Mr Cameron and Mr Hollande were among those who gave readings during the Thiepval ceremony, alongside serving forces personnel and ex-England, Arsenal and Tottenham footballer Sol Campbell.

Game Of Thrones star Charles Dance, actress Joely Richardson and Harry Potter actor Jason Isaacs narrated events.

The royals wore a poppy and cornflower brooch, with the latter, called the “bleuet”, having the same symbolism of remembrance in France as the poppy in Britain.

The brooches were made by French designer Catherine Desclaux and were worn by all the schoolchildren taking part in the ceremony.

British children laid wreaths at French graves and vice versa in the shared graveyard by the memorial.

Mr Hollande and Charles later led the senior politicians and royals in laying wreaths at the Cross of Sacrifice by the memorial.

Mr Cameron laid a wreath at the cross, with a note reading: “Yours was the most horrific slaughter of a generation. We stand in awe of your sacrifice, determined that your legacy of liberty will live on forever.”

Mr Corbyn laid a wreath at the Stone of Remembrance inside the memorial, with a note reading: “In memory of all who died; we resolve peace is the future.”

Mr Cameron said: “Today is a chance to reflect on the sacrifice not just of the thousands of British and Commonwealth troops who gave their lives, but of the men on all sides who did not return home.

“It is an opportunity to think about the impact of the devastation felt by communities across all of the nations involved, which left mothers without sons, wives without husbands and children without fathers.

“The young men who left our shores believed in the cause for which they fought and we honour their memory.

“But today is also a chance to stand as friends with the representatives of all the countries who are here today. This event and the Thiepval monument itself bear testament to a solemn pledge - those who died here will never be forgotten.”

View and download original reports from the Somme as they appeared in The Yorkshire Post in July, 1916

The service to mark the 100th anniversary of the start of the battle of the Somme at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission Memorial in Thiepval, France, where 70,000 British and Commonwealth soldiers with no known grave are commemorated.

The service to mark the 100th anniversary of the start of the battle of the Somme at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission Memorial in Thiepval, France, where 70,000 British and Commonwealth soldiers with no known grave are commemorated.

The world falls silent to remember the 100th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme

The world falls silent to remember the 100th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme

Captain Alex Redshaw from the Yorkshire Regiment blows his whistle three times. The whistle, used in the Battle of the Somme, was blown at 7.30am Friday at York War Memorial. Picture: Gary Longbottom (GL1010/48e)

Captain Alex Redshaw from the Yorkshire Regiment blows his whistle three times. The whistle, used in the Battle of the Somme, was blown at 7.30am Friday at York War Memorial. Picture: Gary Longbottom (GL1010/48e)

Martyn Beecham plays the bugle in City Square, Leeds, to mark the 100th anniversay of the Battle of the Somme. Simon Hulme

Martyn Beecham plays the bugle in City Square, Leeds, to mark the 100th anniversay of the Battle of the Somme. Simon Hulme

Headstones are illuminated during a military-led vigil to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the beginning of the Battle of the Somme at the Thiepval memorial to the Missing, as part of the Commemoration of the Centenary of the Battle of the Somme at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission Thiepval Memorial in Thiepval, France, where 70,000 British and Commonwealth soldiers with no known grave are commemorated.

Headstones are illuminated during a military-led vigil to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the beginning of the Battle of the Somme at the Thiepval memorial to the Missing, as part of the Commemoration of the Centenary of the Battle of the Somme at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission Thiepval Memorial in Thiepval, France, where 70,000 British and Commonwealth soldiers with no known grave are commemorated.

The world falls silent to remember the 100th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme

The world falls silent to remember the 100th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme

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