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Archbishop commemorates sacrifice of Irish troops during Battle of the Somme

Published 02/07/2016

Archbishop Eamon Martin commemorated the shared sacrifice with Protestants during a short memorial ceremony in the village of Guillemont
Archbishop Eamon Martin commemorated the shared sacrifice with Protestants during a short memorial ceremony in the village of Guillemont

Ireland's Archbishop Eamon Martin has said prayers on the spot where Irish troops died at the Somme as he urged Catholics to remember the First World War.

The Irish primate commemorated the shared sacrifice with Protestants during a short memorial ceremony in the village of Guillemont at a stone Celtic cross commemorating the 16th Irish Division which fought a century ago.

Thousands of soldiers from across Ireland died or were wounded at the Somme as part of the British Army. The first day, July 1 1916, was the bloodiest in British military history.

Archbishop Martin said: "In remembering the horrors of the war a century ago it helps us to redouble our efforts towards building peace, healing and reconciliation.

"I know that we have gone our separate ways in many ways over the last decades in Ireland and the more recent conflicts have tended to divide us and we don't realise the shared narrative that there is in the sacrifice of those men in the First World War.

"So I am hoping that being here myself will give a signal to Catholics that it is okay for them to remember the First World War and I am hoping that it will also open up the Protestant community to realise that many Catholics died side by side with their ancestors here on these fields of France."

The 16th Irish Division went into battle on September 3 at Guillemont. The area was badly shelled throughout 1916 and was full of broken trenches and shell holes and very difficult to attack over, chairman of the Somme Association Alan McFarland said.

A total of 1,147 soldiers were lost out of the 2,400 who attacked.

Private Thomas Hughes of Castleblayney in Co Monaghan was awarded the Victoria Cross after he was wounded and went back into battle and single-handedly took out a German machine gun position and captured four German soldiers.

A few days later in a neighbouring village the Irish Division lost Professor Tom Kettle, an MP and noted poet who favoured Irish Home Rule.

A gun salute during the Commemoration of the Centenary of the Battle of the Somme at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission Thiepval Memoria on July 1, 2016 in Thiepval, France. (Photo bt Yui Mok - Pool/Getty Images)
A gun salute during the Commemoration of the Centenary of the Battle of the Somme at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission Thiepval Memoria on July 1, 2016 in Thiepval, France. (Photo bt Yui Mok - Pool/Getty Images)
Britain's Prince Charles (R) and Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron attend a a memorial ceremony on July 1, 2016 at the Thiepval Memorial, northern France, during which Britain and France mark the 100 years since soldiers emerged from their trenches to begin one of the bloodiest battles of World War I (WWI) at the River Somme. / AFP PHOTO / POOL / Francois MoriFRANCOIS MORI/AFP/Getty Images
THIEPVAL, FRANCE - JULY 01: War graves at Thiepval Memorial to the Missing of the Somme during Somme Centenary Commemorations on July 1, 2016 in Thiepval, France. Today marks exactly 100 years since the beginning of the battle of the Somme. (Photo by Chris Jackson/Getty Images)
BEAUMONT-HAMEL, FRANCE - JULY 1: Prince Charles, Prince of Wales lays a wreath at the Beaumont-Hamel Newfoundland Memorial during a Ceremony of Remembrance hosted by the Government of Canada to mark the 100th anniversary of the start of the battle of the Somme on July 1, 2016 in Beaumont-Hamel, France. The event is part of the Commemoration of the Centenary of the Battle of the Somme at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission Thiepval Memorial in Thiepval, France, where 70,000 British and Commonwealth soldiers with no known grave are commemorated. (Photo by Niall Carson - Pool/Getty Images)
THIEPVAL, FRANCE - JULY 1: French President Francois Hollande meets British and French school children during the Commemoration of the Centenary of the Battle of the Somme at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission Thiepval Memoria on July 1, 2016 in Thiepval, France. The event is part of the Commemoration of the Centenary of the Battle of the Somme at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission Thiepval Memorial in Thiepval, France, where 70,000 British and Commonwealth soldiers with no known grave are commemorated. (Photo bt Yui Mok - Pool/Getty Images)
MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - JULY 01: Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne MP attends a commemoration service at Manchester Cathedral marking the 100th anniversary since the start of the Battle of the Somme. July 1, 2016 in Manchester, England. Services are being held across Britain and the world to remember those who died in the Battle of the Somme which began 100 years ago on July 1st 1916. Armies of British and French soldiers fought against the German Empire leading to over one million lives being lost. (Photo by Christopher Furlong - WPA Pool/Getty Images)
Handout photo issued by the MOD of a gun salute by 206 (Ulster Battery Royal Artillery) at the Somme Memorial in Thiepval Barracks, Northern Ireland, to mark the 100th anniversary of the start of the battle of the Somme. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Friday July 1, 2016. See PA story HERITAGE Somme BelfastEvents. Photo credit should read: Kellie Shattock/MOD/PA Wire NOTE TO EDITORS: This handout photo may only be used in for editorial reporting purposes for the contemporaneous illustration of events, things or the people in the image or facts mentioned in the caption. Reuse of the picture may require further permission from the copyright holder.
MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - JULY 01: Royal british Legion standard bearers attend a commemoration service at Manchester Cathedral marking the 100th anniversary since the start of the Battle of the Somme. July 1, 2016 in Manchester, England. Services are being held across Britain and the world to remember those who died in the Battle of the Somme which began 100 years ago on July 1st 1916. Armies of British and French soldiers fought against the German Empire leading to over one million lives being lost. (Photo by Christopher Furlong - WPA Pool/Getty Images)
MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - JULY 01: Prince Andrew, Duke of York, attends a commemoration service at Manchester Cathedral marking the 100th anniversary since the start of the Battle of the Somme. July 1, 2016 in Manchester, England. Services are being held across Britain and the world to remember those who died in the Battle of the Somme which began 100 years ago on July 1st 1916. Armies of British and French soldiers fought against the German Empire leading to over one million lives being lost. (Photo by Christopher Furlong - WPA Pool/Getty Images)
Press Eye handout photo of the Band of the Irish Guards taking part in a wreath-laying ceremony at the Cenotaph in the grounds of Belfast City Hall to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Battle of he Somme. PA
Press Eye handout photo of Belfast Lord Mayor, Alderman Brian Kingston taking part in a wreath-laying ceremony at the Cenotaph in the grounds of Belfast City Hall to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Battle of he Somme. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Friday July 1, 2016. See PA story HERITAGE Somme. Photo credit should read: Kelvin Boyes/Press Eye/PA Wire NOTE TO EDITORS: This handout photo may only be used in for editorial reporting purposes for the contemporaneous illustration of events, things or the people in the image or facts mentioned in the caption. Reuse of the picture may require further permission from the copyright holder.
THIEPVAL, FRANCE - JULY 1: Serviceman watch footage of soldiers from the battle of the Somme during the Commemoration of the Centenary of the Battle of the Somme at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission Thiepval Memorial on July 1, 2016 in Thiepval, France. The event is part of the Commemoration of the Centenary of the Battle of the Somme at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission Thiepval Memorial on July 1, 2016 in Thiepval, France. where 70,000 British and Commonwealth soldiers with no known grave are commemorated. (Photo by Chris Radburn - Pool/Getty Images)
THIEPVAL, FRANCE - JULY 1: Serviceman watch footage of soldiers from the battle of the Somme during the Commemoration of the Centenary of the Battle of the Somme at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission Thiepval Memorial on July 1, 2016 in Thiepval, France. The event is part of the Commemoration of the Centenary of the Battle of the Somme at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission Thiepval Memorial on July 1, 2016 in Thiepval, France. where 70,000 British and Commonwealth soldiers with no known grave are commemorated. (Photo by Chris Radburn - Pool/Getty Images)
THIEPVAL, FRANCE - JULY 1: Standard bearers during the Commemoration of the Centenary of the Battle of the Somme at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission Thiepval Memorial on July 1, 2016 in Thiepval, France. The event is part of the Commemoration of the Centenary of the Battle of the Somme at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission Thiepval Memorial on July 1, 2016 in Thiepval, France. where 70,000 British and Commonwealth soldiers with no known grave are commemorated. (Photo by Chris Radburn - Pool/Getty Images)
THIEPVAL, FRANCE - JULY 1: A view of the wreath laying ceremony during the Commemoration of the Centenary of the Battle of the Somme at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission Thiepval Memorial on July 1, 2016 in Thiepval, France. The event is part of the Commemoration of the Centenary of the Battle of the Somme at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission Thiepval Memorial on July 1, 2016 in Thiepval, France. where 70,000 British and Commonwealth soldiers with no known grave are commemorated. (Photo by Chris Radburn - Pool/Getty Images)
THIEPVAL, FRANCE - JULY 1: A Union flag and French tricolour fly during the Commemoration of the Centenary of the Battle of the Somme at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission Thiepval Memorial on July 1, 2016 in Thiepval, France. The event is part of the Commemoration of the Centenary of the Battle of the Somme at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission Thiepval Memorial on July 1, 2016 in Thiepval, France. where 70,000 British and Commonwealth soldiers with no known grave are commemorated. (Photo by Chris Radburn - Pool/Getty Images)
A man dressed as a First World War soldier in Walthamstow, London, to mark 100 years since the start of the Battle of the Somme. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Friday July 1, 2016. The imitation soldiers surprised onlookers by stopping to pose and sing wartime songs, and when not singing, the men remained silent, handing out cards with names of those who had died to members of the public. See PA story HERITAGE Somme Tributes. Photo credit should read: Nitya Kanoria/PA Wire
THIEPVAL, FRANCE - JULY 1: The Prince of Wales at the Ulster Memorial Tower in Thiepval, France, during a service to mark the 100th anniversary of the start of the battle of the Somme on July 1, 2016 in Thiepval, France. The event is part of the Commemoration of the Centenary of the Battle of the Somme at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission Thiepval Memorial in Thiepval, France, where 70,000 British and Commonwealth soldiers with no known grave are commemorated. (Photo by Niall Carson - Pool/Getty Images)
THIEPVAL, FRANCE - JULY 1: Wreaths at the Ulster Memorial Tower in Thiepval, France, during a service to mark the 100th anniversary of the start of the battle of the Somme on July 1, 2016 in Thiepval, France. The event is part of the Commemoration of the Centenary of the Battle of the Somme at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission Thiepval Memorial in Thiepval, France, where 70,000 British and Commonwealth soldiers with no known grave are commemorated. (Photo by Niall Carson - Pool/Getty Images)
Men dressed as First World War soldiers in Euston station, London, to mark 100 years since the start of the Battle of the Somme. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Friday July 1, 2016. The imitation soldiers surprised onlookers by stopping to pose and sing wartime songs, and when not singing, the men remained silent, handing out cards with names of those who had died to members of the public. See PA story HERITAGE Somme Tributes. Photo credit should read: Sarah Perry/PA Wire
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge tour the new Thiepval Memorial to the Missing Visitors Centre in Thiepval, France. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Friday July 1, 2016. See PA story HERITAGE Somme Royals. Photo credit should read: Ian Jones/PA Wire
(left to right) French President Francois Hollande and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge arrive to open the new Thiepval Memorial to the Missing Visitors Centre in Thiepval, France. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Friday July 1, 2016. See PA story HERITAGE Somme Royals. Photo credit should read: Ian Jones/PA Wire
THIEPVAL, FRANCE - JULY 1: Detailed view of the note on the wreath left by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn at the Stone of Remembrance after the Commemoration of the Centenary of the Battle of the Somme at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission Thiepval Memorial on July 1, 2016 in Thiepval, France. The event is part of the Commemoration of the Centenary of the Battle of the Somme at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission Thiepval Memorial on July 1, 2016 in Thiepval, France. where 70,000 British and Commonwealth soldiers with no known grave are commemorated. (Photo by Andrew Matthews - Pool/Getty Images)
THIEPVAL, FRANCE - JULY 1: Actress Joely Richardson speaks during the Commemoration of the Centenary of the Battle of the Somme at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission Thiepval Memorial on July 1, 2016 in Thiepval, France. The event is part of the Commemoration of the Centenary of the Battle of the Somme at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission Thiepval Memorial in Thiepval, France, where 70,000 British and Commonwealth soldiers with no known grave are commemorated. (Photo by Steve Parsons - Pool/Getty Images)
THIEPVAL, FRANCE - JULY 1: Detailed view of the note on the wreath left by Prime Minister David Cameron at the Cross of Sacrifice after the Commemoration of the Centenary of the Battle of the Somme at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission Thiepval Memorial on July 1, 2016 in Thiepval, France. The event is part of the Commemoration of the Centenary of the Battle of the Somme at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission Thiepval Memorial on July 1, 2016 in Thiepval, France. where 70,000 British and Commonwealth soldiers with no known grave are commemorated. (Photo by Andrew Matthews - Pool/Getty Images)
The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall are given a tour at Beaumont-Hamel, France, following a Ceremony of Remembrance, hosted by the Government of Canada to mark the 100th anniversary of the start of the battle of the Somme. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Friday July 1, 2016. See PA story HERITAGE Somme. Photo credit should read: Niall Carson/PA Wire
THIEPVAL, FRANCE - JULY 1: (L-R) Prince Charles, Prince of Wales with Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall and Prime Minister David Cameron during the Commemoration of the Centenary of the Battle of the Somme at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission Thiepval Memorial on July 1, 2016 in Thiepval, France. The event is part of the Commemoration of the Centenary of the Battle of the Somme at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission Thiepval Memorial in Thiepval, France, where 70,000 British and Commonwealth soldiers with no known grave are commemorated. (Photo by Steve Parsons - Pool/Getty Images)
THIEPVAL, FRANCE - JULY 1: School children take part in a procession in the rain holding flowers a wreaths during the Commemoration of the Centenary of the Battle of the Somme at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission Thiepval Memoria on July 1, 2016 in Thiepval, France. The event is part of the Commemoration of the Centenary of the Battle of the Somme at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission Thiepval Memorial in Thiepval, France, where 70,000 British and Commonwealth soldiers with no known grave are commemorated. (Photo bt Yui Mok - Pool/Getty Images)
THIEPVAL, FRANCE - JULY 1: Prince Charles, Prince of Wales speaks during the Commemoration of the Centenary of the Battle of the Somme at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission Thiepval Memorial on July 1, 2016 in Thiepval, France. The event is part of the Commemoration of the Centenary of the Battle of the Somme at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission Thiepval Memorial in Thiepval, France, where 70,000 British and Commonwealth soldiers with no known grave are commemorated. (Photo by Steve Parsons - Pool/Getty Images)
THIEPVAL, FRANCE - JULY 1: Poppies fall on a Military Service person during the Commemoration of the Centenary of the Battle of the Somme at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission Thiepval Memorial on July 1, 2016 in Thiepval, France. The event is part of the Commemoration of the Centenary of the Battle of the Somme at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission Thiepval Memorial in Thiepval, France, where 70,000 British and Commonwealth soldiers with no known grave are commemorated. (Photo by Steve Parsons - Pool/Getty Images)
THIEPVAL, FRANCE - JUNE 30: Soldiers take part in a vigil at Thiepval Memorial to the Missing of the Somme during Somme Centenary Commemorations on June 30, 2016 in Thiepval, France. (Photo by Chris Jackson/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 30: Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh and Queen Elizabeth II attend a Service on the Eve of the Centenary of the Battle of the Somme at Westminster Abbey on June 30, 2016 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Niklas Halle'n - WPA Pool/Getty Images)
War graves are lit during part of a military-led vigil to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the beginning of the Battle of the Somme at the Thiepval memorial to the Missing, as part of the Commemoration of the Centenary of the Battle of the Somme at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission Thiepval Memorial in Thiepval, France, where 70,000 British and Commonwealth soldiers with no known grave are commemorated. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday June 30, 2016. See PA story HERITAGE Somme. Photo credit should read: Steve Parsons/PA Wire
LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 30: Five civilians and five members of the military undertake a Vigil at Grave of the Unknown Warrior after the Service on the Eve of the Centenary of the Battle of the Somme at Westminster Abbey on June 30, 2016 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Niklas Halle'n - WPA Pool/Getty Images)
War graves are lit during part of a military-led vigil to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the beginning of the Battle of the Somme at the Thiepval memorial to the Missing, as part of the Commemoration of the Centenary of the Battle of the Somme at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission Thiepval Memorial in Thiepval, France, where 70,000 British and Commonwealth soldiers with no known grave are commemorated. PA
THIEPVAL, FRANCE - JUNE 30: Major General Peter Kelly, Head of the New Zealand Forces takes part in a vigil at Thiepval Memorial to the Missing of the Somme during Somme Centenary Commemorations on June 30, 2016 in Thiepval, France. (Photo by Chris Jackson/Getty Images)
Soldiers stand at the Stone of Remembrance during a military-led vigil to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the beginning of the Battle of the Somme at the Thiepval memorial to the Missing, as part of the Commemoration of the Centenary of the Battle of the Somme at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission Thiepval Memorial in Thiepval, France, where 70,000 British and Commonwealth soldiers with no known grave are commemorated. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday June 30, 2016. See PA story HERITAGE Somme. Photo credit should read: Gareth Fuller/PA Wire
Soldiers take part in a vigil at Thiepval Memorial to the Missing of the Somme during Somme Centenary Commemorations on June 30, 2016 in Thiepval, France. (Photo by Chris Jackson/Getty Images)
Prince Harry gives a reading as part of a military-led vigil to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the beginning of the Battle of the Somme at the Thiepval memorial to the Missing, as part of the Commemoration of the Centenary of the Battle of the Somme at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission Thiepval Memorial in Thiepval, France, where 70,000 British and Commonwealth soldiers with no known grave are commemorated. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday June 30, 2016. See PA story HERITAGE Somme. Photo credit should read: Yui Mok/PA Wire
LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 30: Prime Minister David Cameron and wife Samantha arrive to attend a Service on the Eve of the Centenary of the Battle of the Somme at Westminster Abbey on June 30, 2016 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Niklas Halle'n - WPA Pool/Getty Images)
THIEPVAL, FRANCE - JUNE 30: Prince Harry, Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge and Prince William, Duke of Cambridge attend part of a military-led vigil to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the beginning of the Battle of the Somme at the Thiepval memorial to the Missing in June 30, 2016 in Thiepval, France. The event is part of the Commemoration of the Centenary of the Battle of the Somme at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission Thiepval Memorial in Thiepval, France, where 70,000 British and Commonwealth soldiers with no known grave are commemorated. (Photo by Tim Rooke - Pool/Getty Images)
THIEPVAL, FRANCE - JUNE 30: The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry attend part of a military-led vigil to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the beginning of the Battle of the Somme at the Thiepval memorial to the Missing in June 30, 2016 in Thiepval, France. The event is part of the Commemoration of the Centenary of the Battle of the Somme at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission Thiepval Memorial in Thiepval, France, where 70,000 British and Commonwealth soldiers with no known grave are commemorated. (Yui Mok - Pool/Getty Images)
THIEPVAL, FRANCE - JUNE 30: Prince William, Duke of Cambridge and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge take part in a vigil at Thiepval Memorial to the Missing of the Somme during Somme Centenary Commemorations on June 30, 2016 in Thiepval, France. (Photo by Chris Jackson/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 30: Five civilians and five members of the military undertake a Vigil at Grave of the Unknown Warrior after the Service on the Eve of the Centenary of the Battle of the Somme at Westminster Abbey on June 30, 2016 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Niklas Halle'n - WPA Pool/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 30: Queen Elizabeth II lays a wreath made of roses and bay leaves on the Grave of the Unknown Warrior at a Service on the Eve of the Centenary of the Battle of the Somme at Westminster Abbey on June 30, 2016 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Niklas Halle'n - WPA Pool/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 30: Prime Minister David Cameron and wife Samantha speak before a Service on the Eve of the Centenary of the Battle of the Somme at Westminster Abbey on June 30, 2016 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Niklas Halle'n - WPA Pool/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 30: Leader of the Labour Party Jeremy Corbyn attends a Service on the Eve of the Centenary of the Battle of the Somme at Westminster Abbey on June 30, 2016 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Niklas Halle'n - WPA Pool/Getty Images)
Soldiers take part in a vigil at the the Stone of Remembrance as part of the Commemoration of the Centenary of the Battle of the Somme at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission Thiepval Memorial in Thiepval, France, where 70,000 British and Commonwealth soldiers with no known grave are commemorated. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday June 30, 2016. See PA story HERITAGE Somme. Photo credit should read: Andrew Matthews/PA Wire
ALBERT, FRANCE JUNE 30: A general view of the Thiepval Memorial as Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, Prince William, Duke of Cambridge and Prince Harry attend the Somme Centenary commemorations on June 30, 2016 in Albert, France. (Photo by Tim Rooke - Pool/Getty Images)
ALBERT, FRANCE JUNE 30: Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, Prince William, Duke of Cambridge and Prince Harry attend the Somme Centenary commemorations at the Thiepval Memorial on June 30, 2016 in Albert, France. (Photo by Tim Rooke - Pool/Getty Images)
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry attend part of a military-led vigil to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the beginning of the Battle of the Somme at the Thiepval memorial to the Missing, as part of the Commemoration of the Centenary of the Battle of the Somme at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission Thiepval Memorial in Thiepval, France, where 70,000 British and Commonwealth soldiers with no known grave are commemorated. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday June 30, 2016. See PA story HERITAGE Somme. Photo credit should read: Yui Mok/PA Wire
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry receiving a historical briefing on the battlefields of the Somme from the top of the Thiepval monument in France to mark the centenary of the Battle of the Somme. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Thursday June 30, 2016. See PA story HERITAGE Somme. Photo credit should read: Tim Rooke/PA Wire
Security before the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry received a historical briefing on the battlefields of the Somme from the top of the Thiepval monument in France to mark the centenary of the Battle of the Somme. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Thursday June 30, 2016. See PA story HERITAGE Somme. Photo credit should read: Tim Rooke/PA Wire
Lance Sergeant Stuart Laing from the Welsh Guards rehearses the Last Post on a bugle that was sounded at the Battle of the Somme at Westminster Abbey on June 30, 2016 in London, England. The bugle will be played from the Lantern Tower at Westminster Abbey during a service on the eve of the Battle of the Somme centenary attended by the Queen. The bugle is kept at the Welsh Guards Regimental HQ at Wellington Barracks in London and was used daily along the reserve line as an efficient way of communicating orders. (Photo by Jack Taylor/Getty Images)
An overnight vigil at the Somme Museum and Heritage Centre outside Newtownards. The sound of bagpipes filled the air at Helen's Tower, as lone piper, Grahame Harris, played a lament. Picture: Philip Magowan / PressEye
An overnight vigil at the Somme Museum and Heritage Centre outside Newtownards. The sound of bagpipes filled the air at Helen's Tower, as lone piper, Grahame Harris, played a lament. Picture: Philip Magowan / PressEye
An overnight vigil at the Somme Museum and Heritage Centre outside Newtownards. The sound of bagpipes filled the air at Helen's Tower, as lone piper, Grahame Harris, played a lament. Picture: Philip Magowan / PressEye
Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh arrive at Westminster Abbey in London for a service to commemorate the centenary of the Battle of the Somme. PA
Prime Minister David Cameron and wife Samantha Cameron attend Service on the eve of the centenary of The Battle of The Somme at Westminster Abbey on June 30, 2016 in London, England. (Photo by Eamonn M. McCormack/Getty Images)
Jeremy Corbyn and his wife Laura Alvarez arrive at Westminster Abbey in London for a service to commemorate the centenary of the Battle of the Somme. PA
An overnight vigil at the Somme Museum and Heritage Centre outside Newtownards. The sound of bagpipes filled the air at Helen's Tower, as lone piper, Grahame Harris, played a lament. Picture: Philip Magowan / PressEye
An overnight vigil at the Somme Museum and Heritage Centre outside Newtownardsy. Starting at 7pm on Thursday evening, the vigil will end at 7.28am on Friday morning, to the blowing of whistles. Picture: Philip Magowan / PressEye
ALBERT, FRANCE - JANUARY 30: A memorial is seen in the town in front of the Basilica of Notre-Dame de Brebieres on January 30, 2016 in Albert, France. This year will mark the 100th anniversary of the start of the World War One Battle of the Somme and a number of commemorations are planned to mark one of the bloodiest battles in military history. (Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images)
An overnight vigil at the Somme Museum and Heritage Centre outside Newtownardsy. Starting at 7pm on Thursday evening, the vigil will end at 7.28am on Friday morning, to the blowing of whistles. Picture: Philip Magowan / PressEye
LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 30: The Abbey Choir rehearse after Lance Sergeant Stuart Laing from the Welsh Guards rehearsed the Last Post on a bugle that was sounded at the Battle of the Somme at Westminster Abbey on June 30, 2016 in London, England. The bugle will be played from the Lantern Tower at Westminster Abbey during a service on the eve of the Battle of the Somme centenary attended by the Queen. The bugle is kept at the Welsh Guards Regimental HQ at Wellington Barracks in London and was used daily along the reserve line as an efficient way of communicating orders. (Photo by Jack Taylor/Getty Images)
People in kilt play bagpipes during a ceremony to commemorate the centenary of the battle of the Somme, one of the deadliest of the World War I (1.2 million killed, missing and wounded in five months), on June 30, 2016 in Albert, northern France. / AFP PHOTO / FRANCOIS NASCIMBENIFRANCOIS NASCIMBENI/AFP/Getty Images
Colour Sergeant Trevor Ross takes delivery of wreaths from the Mayor of Thiepval, at the Ulster Memorial Tower in Thiepval, France, ahead of the Commemoration of the Centenary of the Battle of the Somme. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday June 30, 2016. Thousands of soldiers from across Ireland died at the Somme, including many from the 36th Ulster Division on the first day of battle. See PA story HERITAGE Somme NIreland. Photo credit should read: Niall Carson/PA Wire
An overnight vigil at the Somme Museum outside Newtownards. Pictured at the vigil is, Jim Shannon MP, John Morrison of the Royal British Legion, military bugler, Grahame Harris of Harris Piping, and Kingsley Donaldson, secretary of the Northern Ireland 1st World War centenary committee. Picture: Philip Magowan / PressEye
An overnight vigil at the Somme Museum outside Newtownards. Pictured at the vigil is, Jim Shannon MP, John Morrison of the Royal British Legion, military bugler, Grahame Harris of Harris Piping, and Kingsley Donaldson, secretary of the Northern Ireland 1st World War centenary committee. Picture: Philip Magowan / PressEye
ALBERT, FRANCE - JANUARY 30: A memorial is seen in the town in front of the Basilica of Notre-Dame de Brebieres on January 30, 2016 in Albert, France. This year will mark the 100th anniversary of the start of the World War One Battle of the Somme and a number of commemorations are planned to mark one of the bloodiest battles in military history. (Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images)
Liam Mercer, 20, from Elm Park, in Hornchurch, Essex, of the 10th Essex living historians group, in the uniform of a British soldier from WW1, prepares to march through Albert, in France, as part of the of the Commemoration of the Centenary of the Battle of the Somme, in France. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday June 30, 2016. See PA story HERITAGE Somme. Photo credit should read: David Wilcock/PA Wire
ALBERT, FRANCE - JANUARY 30: A memorial is seen in the town in front of the Basilica of Notre-Dame de Brebieres on January 30, 2016 in Albert, France. This year will mark the 100th anniversary of the start of the World War One Battle of the Somme and a number of commemorations are planned to mark one of the bloodiest battles in military history. (Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images)
ALBERT, ENGLAND - MAY 18: Headstones of fallen British servicemen are seen in the Caterpillar Valley Cemetery on May 17, 2016 near Albert, France. This year will see the 100th anniversary of the start of the Battle of the Somme with a series of major ceremonies planned across the UK and France on July 1 to mark its centenary. The Somme was one of the bloodiest battles of World War One with more than one million casualties over 141 days. The fighting began just before 7.30am on the morning of July 1, 1916 and was to become known as the British Army's bloodiest day. (Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images)
ALBERT, ENGLAND - MAY 17: A poppy is left besides the names of fallen soldiers in the Caterpillar Valley Cemetery on May 17, 2016 near Albert, France. This year will see the 100th anniversary of the start of the Battle of the Somme with a series of major ceremonies planned across the UK and France on July 1 to mark its centenary. The Somme was one of the bloodiest battles of World War One with more than one million casualties over 141 days. The fighting began just before 7.30am on the morning of July 1, 1916 and was to become known as the British Army's bloodiest day. (Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images)
ALBERT, FRANCE - MAY 17: The 51st (Highland) Division memorial is seen at the Newfoundland Memorial Park at Beaumont Hamel on May 17, 2016 near Albert, France. This year will see the 100th anniversary of the start of the Battle of the Somme with a series of major ceremonies planned across the UK and France on July 1 to mark its centenary. The Somme was one of the bloodiest battles of World War One with more than one million casualties over 141 days. The fighting began just before 7.30am on the morning of July 1, 1916 and was to become known as the British Army's bloodiest day. (Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images)
ALBERT, ENGLAND - MAY 18: Headstones of fallen British servicemen are seen in the Caterpillar Valley Cemetery on May 17, 2016 near Albert, France. This year will see the 100th anniversary of the start of the Battle of the Somme with a series of major ceremonies planned across the UK and France on July 1 to mark its centenary. The Somme was one of the bloodiest battles of World War One with more than one million casualties over 141 days. The fighting began just before 7.30am on the morning of July 1, 1916 and was to become known as the British Army's bloodiest day. (Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images)
ALBERT, FRANCE - MAY 17: The remains of trenches are seen in the Newfoundland Memorial Park at Beaumont Hamel on May 17, 2016 near Albert, France. This year will see the 100th anniversary of the start of the Battle of the Somme with a series of major ceremonies planned across the UK and France on July 1 to mark its centenary. The Somme was one of the bloodiest battles of World War One with more than one million casualties over 141 days. The fighting began just before 7.30am on the morning of July 1, 1916 and was to become known as the British Army's bloodiest day. (Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images)
ALBERT, FRANCE - JANUARY 31: A view of the Gordon Cemetery, Mametz is seen on January 31, 2016 near Albert, France. This year will mark the 100th anniversary of the start of the World War One Battle of the Somme and a number of commemorations are planned to mark one of the bloodiest battles in military history. (Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images)

Ulster Unionist leader Mike Nesbitt and council delegations from Lisburn and Portadown were among those who gathered for the service.

The Last Post and Reveille bugle calls were sounded and a piper played a lament before poppy wreaths were laid by the Somme Association, military figures and a series of local councils.

The Royal Irish Regiment (RIR) provided a ceremonial guard of honour.

Mr Nesbitt said the service commemorated men from Londonderry, the mainly Catholic Falls Road in Belfast and all over the island of Ireland.

"It reminds me as we struggle to create a shared future that we actually have the example of a shared past, of service and sacrifice.

"Of sacrifice in almost unimaginable numbers, not just the 36th Ulster Division, not just the Protestants and unionists from the north-east of Ireland but from all over the island who came here and fought and died together."

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From Belfast Telegraph