Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Centenary Events Honour Fallen Thousands

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Centenary Events Honour Fallen Thousands

Article excerpt

Byline: Katie Dickinson Reporter

THE North East fell silent yesterday to honour the thousands of soldiers killed in the Battle of the Somme.

One hundred years ago yesterday tens of thousands of soldiers went 'over the top' in what would prove to be the bloodiest day in British military history.

On the first day alone, 19,240 British and Commonwealth Troops were killed. Of these, more than 2,000 came from North East regiments.

The sound of an explosion rang through St Nicholas Cathedral at 7.28am, marking the beginning of a day of remembrance.

The start of the battle was marked by pictures and sounds of the huge explosions when massive underground mines were detonated to further the destruction of the German Defences.

People gathered in the Cathedral fell silent for two minutes to pay their respects, before trench whistles blew at 7.30am, representing the advance of British & Commonwealth troops as they went 'over the top' to attack the enemy.

Many of those who were killed were mown down by German machine guns which had survived the Allied bombardment.

The moving service continued as the Lord Mayor Coun Hazel Stephenson lit a remembrance candle blessed by the Assistant Bishop of Newcastle, the Rt Rev Frank White.

The County Standard and the Union Flag were placed either side of the altar.

Among those in attendance was leader of Newcastle City Council Coun Nick Forbes, who described the service as "very poignant".

"The whistles that the troops would have heard as they went over the top and the Cathedral bell tolling 100 times to mark the years that have passed since they gave their lives was incredibly moving," he said.

"Peace is something we take for granted these days and today is a reminder that thousands upon thousands of people have given their lives to create the peace that we enjoy.

"There are still many families who mourn grandparents and uncles from the First World War and today is an opportunity to honour their memory and the ultimate sacrifice they made for their country."

Keith Laws, chairman of the Royal British Legion Northumbria branch, said: "Today is important because we have got to remember.

"It was probably the worst day in military history as far as the British Army was concerned - we lost so many men that day.

"We can't forget such a sacrifice as that. We don't want it to happen again."

Meanwhile a normal day at Newcastle's Central Station was interrupted as actors in costume reenacted First World War troops arriving at the station. And at 10am, the cathedral's bells rang out across the city for one hour to mark all the bell-ringers who died in the conflict.

On the hour, every hour today, The Last Post was sounded at the cathedral.

There were readings that included poems and letters from those who were on the front line. …

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