Remembering the soldiers of the Somme
At 7.30am, 100 years ago today, the onslaught of the Battle of the Somme began.
Three sharp blasts of a whistle gave the order for allied troops to go over the top into no man’s land, leading many straight into German machine gun fire during the First World War.
Nearly 20,000 British soldiers lose their lives on that first day of the battle.
And the casualties injured, totalling 57,470, was the most the British Army has ever seen in a single day.
A century on, remembrance services are taking place across the district to commemorate the bravery of all those who fought during the First World War battle.
As 7.30am arrived this morning, Wakefield Cathedral joined Ripon and Bradford Cathedrals in tolling a single bell to mark the exact moment the soldiers left their trenches. It was followed by a poignant ten minute silence.
The Dean of Wakefield, the Very Reverend Jonathan Greener, said “We, the three cathedrals, wanted 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.”
In Ossett whistles were also sounded at the town’s war memorial.
John Lockwood of the Royal British Legion’s Horbury, Sitlington and Ossett branch added: “It is vital for our community to keep the memory of those soldiers alive and pay tribute to their sacrifice.”
Churches across the West Yorkshire diocese will also hold remembrance services throughout the day.
In Crigglestone, wreaths will be laid at the cemetery this afternoon. Children will place crosses to mark each soldier from their parish who was killed in action during the Great War.
Elsewhere in Wakefield, St Austin’s Church will hold a ceremony at 7.30pm tonight with music from St Austin’s choir.
Anne Blackburn, of the church, said: “The total of 57,470 casualties remains the highest number suffered by the British Army in a single day. Six of those killed were members of St Austin’s Parish.”
Six members of the parish will represent the soldiers and give biographical readings.