Battle of the Somme Commemoration

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Epping Forest residents are invited to take part in national commemorations marking the 100th Anniversary of the Battle of the Somme.

Battle of the Somme

Early morning service

Following an all-night vigil by airfield staff, residents are invited by Chairman of Epping Forest District Council, Councillor Jeane Lea to an early morning service of commemoration for people of all faiths at North Weald Airfield.

The service will begin with the sounds of distant battle at ‘H’ Hour 7.30am, the hour at which troops along the line left their trenches for the bloodiest day of fighting in British military history. The battle was to rage on at terrible cost on all sides until the 18 November, leaving families devastated by loss across the length and breadth of the British Isles.

Exhibition

Epping Forest District Council has joined with the Royal Gunpowder Mills and the Royal British Legion for the commemorations. Members of the public will be welcome to visit an educational exhibition for local school children currently being prepared at the airfield, this includes

  • A reconstruction of a WWI trench
  • Indoor displays and exhibition

Provided by Epping Forest District Museum and the Royal Gunpowder Mills, and Mills volunteers to talk to local schoolchildren about the First World War.

Keeping the memory alive

Chairman Jeane Lea hopes local residents will join her at the early morning service to be taken by Father James Rodley of St Andrews Church.

She said: “100 years on, it is so important that we keep alive the memory of the First World War. If we are to avoid such terrible mistakes again, we must never forget the price paid by so many poor men all those years ago or the lessons learnt for future generations. The Battle of the Somme left scars that have reverberated through the years.”

“I particularly hope that there may be some residents with connections to the battle or indeed the Great War, whether through great grandfathers, uncles or other connections, who will join me at ‘H’ Hour for this simple service of commemoration.”

Mrs Lea (a former member of the Women’s Royal Army Corp) continued: “The British Army of 1916 was made up of soldiers from every colour, faith and culture. Sikhs, Muslims and people of Jewish faith were just some of the soldiers of different faiths who stood prominently beside their Christian comrades in those terrible months and years. I hope people of all faiths and cultures will feel able to stand with me in commemoration of those sad days.”

Overnight Vigil

Events at North Weald Airfield will begin as dusk approaches on the evening of Thursday 30 June 2016. Airfield Officers dressed in the uniforms of the British Army of 1916, will invite the Vice-chairman of Epping Forest District Council, Councillor David Stallan and other invited guests to light a brazier. Those staff will tend the brazier throughout the night.

As the hour approaches (7.30am) when troops left the comparative safety of their trenches, the sounds of battle will be broadcast across North Weald Airfield. Members of the Vigil they will take their place by a symbolic trench as Father Rodley leads the service of commemoration with readings from the verses of the Great War poets.

Residents will be offered light refreshments at the end of the service in North Weald Control Tower, where the exhibition by Epping Forest District Museum and the Royal Gunpowder Mills will be on display. The exhibition will remain open to visitors and school groups between Saturday 25 June and 5pm on Friday 1 July.

We should never forget

The 1 July 1916 is the bloodiest day in British military history. The British Army alone sustained 57,470 casualties in the first 24 hours, of which 19,240 soldiers perished.

Over the next 141 days the battle claimed over 1 million casualties

  • German casualties            500,000
  • British casualties               419,654
  • French casualties              204,253

Services of commemoration will be held throughout the UK as the Nation remembers. 

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