Battle of the Somme Centenary Commemorations
Remembering all those who fought and died at the Battle of the Somme, 1 July to 18 November 1916.
Her Majesty The Queen, accompanied by The Duke of Edinburgh, led the commemorations for the Centenary of the Battle of the Somme at a Service and Vigil at Westminster Abbey on Thursday 30 June 2016. The Queen placed a wreath at the Grave of the Unknown Warrior.
On Friday 1 July 2016, The Prince of Wales, The Duchess of Cornwall, The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Prince Harry and the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester attended a service of commemoration at the Thiepval Memorial in France.
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry also attended a Vigil at the Thiepval Memorial in France on 30 June.
The Duke of Cambridge delivered a reading written by Sebastian Faulks:
One hundred years ago tomorrow, at 7.30am, the British Army attacked German lines across these fields. To the young men eager to fight, it was known as ‘the Big Push’: a joint British and French offensive intended to put unbearable pressure on the German Army and hasten an end to the war.
Most of those who went over the top that day were wartime volunteers, some as young as sixteen. Some had already seen action; but for others, the Somme was their first experience of battle.
By the end of the First of July the British Army had sustained almost 60,000 casualties, of whom nearly one third had died. We lost the flower of a generation; and in the years to come it sometimes seemed that with them a sense of vital optimism had disappeared for ever from British life. It was in many ways the saddest day in the long story of our nation.
Tonight we think of them as they nerved themselves for what lay ahead. We acknowledge the failures of European governments, including our own, to prevent the catastrophe of world war. We offer our humblest respects to each man who fought in the Battle of the Somme, from every corner of the British Isles and from across the Commonwealth. We honour those whose names are recorded on this memorial – more than 72,000 who have no known grave – and to those who lie buried in Commonwealth War cemeteries.
And tonight, we stand here with a promise to those men: We will remember you. The gift you gave your country is treasured by every one of us this day. The sacrifice you made will never, ever be forgotten.
Prince Harry read the poem Before Action by W.N. Hodgson:
By all the glories of the day
And the cool evening’s benison
By that last sunset touch that lay
Upon the hills when day was done,
By beauty lavishly outpoured
And blessings carelessly received,
By all the days that I have lived
Make me a soldier, Lord.
By all of all man’s hopes and fears
And all the wonders poets sing
The laughter of unclouded years,
And every sad and lovely thing;
By the romantic ages stored
With high endeavour that was his,
By all his mad catastrophes
Make me a man, O Lord.
I, that on my familiar hill
Saw with uncomprehending eyes,
A hundred of thy sunsets spill
Their fresh and sanguine sacrifice,
Ere the sun swings his noonday sword
Must say good-bye to all of this, -
By all delights that I shall miss,
Help me to die, O’ Lord
The Duke of York attended the National Commemorative Service at Manchester Cathedral on 1 July.
The Princess Royal attended commemorative events in Canada.