A programme of events will be taking place in Northampton to mark the centenary of the Battle of the Somme.
The battle is one of the defining events of World War 1 and marked a major allied effort on the Western Front. The British Army took the leading role and following an intense bombardment on enemy positions, allied soldiers began to advance at 7.30am on July 1, 1916. By the end of the first day, 57,000 Commonwealth and 2,000 French soldiers had fallen and more than 19,000 of them were killed.
By the time the offensive was halted in November 1916, more than one million Commonwealth, French and German men had been wounded, captured or killed.
Northampton’s Somme commemorative events - delivered in partnership with the Western Front Association - will take place at Abington Park Museum. Soldiers of the Northamptonshire Regiment took part in the battle, and Abington Park Museum is home to the Regimental Collection, which traces the history of the Northamptonshires and the Northamptonshire Yeomanry from its formation in 1741 to its amalgamation in 1960.
An Evening of Commemoration marking the Battle of the Somme and the involvement of the Northamptonshire Regiment and Northampton people with readings, exhibitions and performance will be held at the Abington Park Museum from 7pm on Thursday June 30.
At 9.20pm, a short sunset ceremony will take place outside the museum and that will be followed by an overnight vigil held inside the museum to allow people to come together and pay tribute to those lost in the battle.
The next morning, Friday July 1, members of the Western Front Association will lead a ceremony from 7am-8am that will mark the beginning of the battle. The ceremony will be followed by the opportunity to look round the museum’s regimental collection.
Councillor Anna King, Northampton Borough Council Cabinet member for Community Engagement, said: “The Battle of the Somme remains the bloodiest day in the history of the British army and even today, one hundred years on, people remember the terrible loss of life and the awful impact the battle had on communities up and down the country. I am proud that Northampton will mark the anniversary and I hope many people will join us at one of the ceremonies in Abington Park.”
Tickets, costing £5, must be booked in advance for the Evening of Commemoration. The sunset ceremony is free to attend. The overnight vigil is also free to attend but booking is essential. The morning ceremony is free to attend.
For more information, book a ticket or reserve a place, call 01604 837397.