Newtownards piper will bring curtain down on Somme commemoration
An Irish Guards piper wounded in Afghanistan is to play a lament at the end of an all-night vigil and service at Westminster Abbey commemorating the centenary of the Battle of the Somme.
Lance Corporal Richie Spence (24) from Newtownards will play Flowers In The Forest by the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior in London at 7.30am on Friday.
It marks the moment in 1916 when thousands of British soldiers met their deaths as they went "over the top" in the first wave of the attack.
The young soldier - shot by insurgents while serving in Afghanistan in 2011 aged just 18 - said it was a huge honour and privilege to play on the anniversary of Britain's bloodiest battle.
"It is such an important day," he said.
"It was a truly horrible war with terrible casualties.
"You had lads as young as 15, who'd lied about their age to join up, dying fighting for a better cause for their country.
"I have the utmost respect for those men and boys.
"Everyone should know how special a day it is and realise what they went through for us.
"No one can imagine how grotesque it must have been.
"I've experienced war, but I had the benefit of decent personal equipment and weaponry they never had."
L Cpl Spence, who has completed operational tours in Cyprus and the Falklands, and been on training exercises in Kenya and Oman, said he was proud and honoured to be taking part in the commemorations.
"The pipes were used back then just as they are today to fire up soldiers' morale before they go to face their enemy," he said.
"The lament is a tribute to all who fought."
On Friday, 100 years to the minute, at precisely 7.25am in Parliament Square, The Kings Troop Royal Horse Artillery will fire three First World War era 13-pounder guns for 100 seconds, with four seconds between each round.
The salvo will commemorate the end of the artillery bombardment at the Somme and the beginning of the doomed infantry assault on the still intact German lines.