Poppies On The Leas, 19 November 2016

Folk Stones by Mark Wallinger, Folkestone, Kent
Folk Stones by Mark Wallinger. Photo: Avidly Abide

Commemorating the end of the Battle of the Somme

After five bloody months, the devastating Battle of the Somme finally came to an end on 19 November 1916. To mark the 100th anniversary of the event, a special ceremony will take place on the Leas in Folkestone at 11am on Saturday 19th November.

A symbolic planting of 1,000 metal poppies by local schoolchildren is planned close to the ‘Folk Stones’ artwork by Mark Wallinger. This piece represents the 19,240 British men who were lost during the first day of the Battle of the Somme.

The planting will be followed by a short ceremony to be attended by Folkestone Mayor Martin Salmon, the artist Mark Wallinger and town councillors. The event is open to the public.

Somme 100

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The Battle of the Somme raged for five bloody months, from 1 July to 18 November 1916. A joint operation between France and Britain, the unprecedented action was designed to finally end 18 months of deadlock in the trenches and to force the Germans back from the Western Front.

Somme Strategy

British military strategy was largely the work of Sir Douglas Haig and Sir Henry Rawlinson, commanders with no previous experience of planning such a huge offensive.

Enthused by Lord Kitchener’s recruitment campaign, newly recruited battalions of ‘Pals’ made up Britain’s volunteer army. They were trained and ready for action by the summer of 1916. British forces also included servicemen from Ireland, Newfoundland, Canada, West Indies, South Africa, India, Australia and New Zealand.

The First Day

On the first day of the battle, 57,470 British soldiers were injured and of them 19,240 died. This video from the Imperial War Museum shows a Battle of the Somme War Office film following British forces on the first day. Many now believe that a combination of misplaced optimism, flawed tactics and inadequate/defective weaponry characterised what was a battle of attrition, and a massacre.

Legacy of the Somme

By its close, this brutal and unforgettable battle had claimed 420,000 British, almost 200,000 French and 500,000 German lives. There were 1,300,000 casualties in total. The Allies had gained just six miles of territory and the First World War was to continue for another two long years.

There has been much debate about the strategy and legacy of the Battle of the Somme, but despite its devastating consequences it is considered by many to have been a significant step towards the Allies’ victory in 1918.

To all of those who lost their lives in the Battle of the Somme, 1st July to 18th November 2016.

A poem written by Mr A Wilson, brother-in-law of Ray Whitewood who shared it with Step Short. Mr Whitewood is a veteran of the Fusiliers. His grandfather, James Albert Moore, died in the Great War.

Thousands of soldiers in meadow green
The biggest army the world has seen
I hope you died bravely I hope you died clean
All of you slaughtered in 1916

They killed their first foe with a bullet so true
They didn’t care and neither did you
The boy thought it was rain he felt on his face
But it was tears that were falling
For the whole human race

I hope you died bravely I hope you died clean
All of you slaughtered in 1916
The trains they are coming they all look the same
But for all of you waiting you all wait in vain

The biggest mass slaughter in 1916
Why did it happen nobody knows
The pain is intense it goes on and grows
It’s no good waiting for them to return
They won’t be back I just hope we learn

I hope you died bravely I hope you died clean
All of you slaughtered in 1916

Find out more about the Battle of the Somme and Centenary events on the British Legion website.

The Somme Remembered

Battle of the Somme Commemoration Service Folkestone 1 July 2016
On July 1 more than 200 people gathered at the Step Short Arch in Folkestone to remember the centenary of the start of the Battle of the Somme.

The service began at 7.15am with an introduction by Councillor Jan Holben, Shepway District Council Chairman, and a talk on the bloodiest battle in British history by Deputy Lieutenant of Kent, Dennis Bradley.

A whistle was blown poignantly at 7.30am, precisely when British troops were ordered to go over the top 100 years ago. A roll call of local people who died during the battle was read by Mr Bradley. Bugler Bryan Walker then played the Last Post and Folkestone and Hythe MP, Damian Collins read a classic verse from poem For the Fallen by Robert Laurence Binyon:

They shall not grow old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

Battle of the Somme Commemoration Folkestone Ben Millbery 2016

Two minutes’ silence followed and then Mr Collins spoke again before The Reveille from the bugler. The lament Flowers of the Forest was played on the bagpipes by piper Ben Millbery. Reverend David Adlington, St Mary and St Eanswythe Church vicar, said prayers and finally, wreaths were laid and handwritten wooden crosses with the names of the fallen from the local area were planted in the memorial flower beds.

The Somme centenary was remembered in services across the country and France last Friday. In a moving arts project to mark the anniversary, First World War ‘ghost’ soldiers marched throughout towns and cities, including Folkestone. ‘we’re here because we’re here’ was a national event created by Turner Prize-winning artist Jeremy Deller in partnership with Rufus Norris of the National Theatre, commissioned by 14-18 NOW.

On Saturday 2 July, a new war memorial was unveiled in nearby Aldington after a 60-year campaign by resident David Hughes to honour the village’s fallen from World Wars I and II.

Start to uncover the stories of the soldiers and nurses involved in the Battle of the Somme by searching the Mole Cafe visitor books now.