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All-night vigils to mark Battle of Somme centenary

Published 20/11/2015

Culture Secretary John Whittingdale has announced events to commemorate the Battle of the Somme
Culture Secretary John Whittingdale has announced events to commemorate the Battle of the Somme

All-night vigils will be held across the country to mark the centenary of the Battle of the Somme, it has been announced.

A national vigil will be held at Westminster Abbey on June 30 next year, while other overnight events will take place in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland to mark the 100th anniversary of the battle in which a million people were lost or wounded.

A national commemorative service will take place at Manchester Cathedral on July 1 2016, followed by a procession through the city to Heaton Park, while an overnight programme of events will be held at the Imperial War Museum London on June 30.

Announcing the commemorations, Culture Secretary John Whittingdale said: "We must never forget the scale of what happened at the Somme. More died on the first day of battle than any other day of the First World War.

"Almost every family in the country was touched by the devastating losses.

"I hope people of all generations up and down the country will have the chance to attend an event and honour the bravery of those who sacrificed so much."

The Government has already announced plans for commemorations on July 1 2016 at Thiepval, in northern France, where the memorial stands to more than 72,000 men who died in the Somme and have no known grave.

Events will also be taking place across the battlefields at Commonwealth War Graves Commission cemeteries and memorials.

Beginning on July 1 1916 and intended to achieve a decisive victory for the British and French, the battle became a bloody stalemate on battlegrounds that turned into a muddy quagmire after torrential rains in October of that year.

The battle claimed more than a million casualties on both sides by the time it ended on November 18 1916.

The overnight vigils around the UK will take place on June 30 2016 and will be held at:

:: Westminster Abbey around the Grave of the Unknown Warrior;

:: The Scottish National War Memorial in Edinburgh Castle;

:: Clandeboye and Helen's Tower, County Down, Northern Ireland in association with the Somme Heritage Centre;

:: The Welsh National War Memorial, Cardiff.

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