THEY went over the top to the sound of gunfire, but tomorrow bells will ring out in the memory of Yorkshire’s fallen and the hope of a better world.
At 7.30am – the time of the start of the onslaught in northern France 100 years ago – a single bell will toll in churches and cathedrals across the county including Bradford, Ripon and Wakefield.
In York three sharp blasts of a whistle from the Somme battlefield will be sounded at the war memorial.
Those three blasts were the sound that gave the order to go over the top into No Man’s Land on July 1, 1916 – leading thousands of Yorkshire troops straight into German machine gun fire as they charged at the enemy lines.
Dean of Wakefield Jonathan Greener said the single or muffled bell would be followed by silence for 10 minutes and then a further 10 minutes of prayer to remember all those who lost their lives during the battle – which would go down in history as the bloodiest episode in British military history.
Mr Greener said: “The loss of life on that day in our towns, cities and villages here in Yorkshire will never be forgotten.
“We wanted to come together to mark this anniversary and pray together in thanks and in sorrow to all those men of Yorkshire who paid the ultimate price for our freedom today.” Other commemorations in the region include a special service at Sheffield Cathedral.
Bugles will sound across Leeds at 7.30am tomorrow, both from points in the city centre and in suburbs including Headingley, Bramley and Morley.
Then, at 10.30am, a paving stone in memory of Victoria Cross winner Corporal George Sanders will be unveiled at Leeds Minster.
The Queen and senior royals will lead the nation in remembrance to mark the centenary of the start of the battle, a day that left almost 20,000 dead.
Tonight at Westminster Abbey in London, the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh will join an evening vigil while the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry will attend evening events at the Thiepval Memorial in France, where 70,000 British and Commonwealth soldiers with no known grave are commemorated.
The events will include a climb to the top of the huge newly-renovated structure which will be lit for the first time to view the killing fields.
Tomorrow, the Duchess of Cornwall will lay a wreath at the grave of her great uncle Captain Harry Cubitt, who was killed in the Somme in September 1916.
Exhibitions across the region are also highlighting the personal stories of Yorkshire soldiers.
The Green Howards Museum, in Richmond, explores the fate of the thousands of Yorkshire men involved in the battle.
Using photographs, letters and personal items, the display examines how their experiences compared with their German counterparts.
And tomorrow at the Beck Isle Museum, Pickering, a Book of Honour researched by a team of volunteers will be on display, remembering the 79 men from the town who went to war and did not return.
Mike Haigh, chairman of the board of museum trustees, said: “The book is a way of making sure that we continue to honour the sacrifice of those men who did not return from the war and to re-tell their individual stories.”
In Bankfield Museum, Halifax, there is a display on the Battle of the Somme and the Yorkshire writer JB Priestley, who served with the Duke of Wellington’s Regiment during the war.
In York the Army Museum, ‘home headquarters’ for The Yorkshire Regiment, also has a new Somme exhibition telling the story of the sacrifice of the region’s soldiers.