‘North was the heartland’: Manchester to host national Somme centenary memorials

Manchester will host a series of national commemorative events to mark the Battle of the Somme’s centenary.

Culture Secretary John Whittingdale announced today that a parade, remembrance service and a free concert will unite the public in honouring the tragic one million casualties.

The Somme was one of World War One’s worst battles with 60,000 British soldiers injured or killed on the first day.

The Culture Secretary said: “It is important that we provide as many ways as we can for the public to commemorate the bravery and sacrifices of our ancestors 100 years ago.

“We must never forget what happened at the Somme.”

Military and home front organisations will march through the city centre on July 1, while big screens will stream a remembrance service at Manchester Cathedral to nearby towns and cities.

A concert featuring poetry by Lemn Sissay, diary entry readings, dance, and music from Manchester’s Hallé Orchestra, is set to take place at Heaton Park.

The park was a military training ground in 1916 for many recruits before they went to the Somme, and organisers hope to bring its history to life with an ‘Experience Field’ as part of the commemoration.

Original bell tents will house activities, artefacts and First World War experts will showcase the stories and experiences of Britain’s soldiers, nurses and factory workers.

Councillor Sue Murphy, Deputy Leader of Manchester City Council, said: “Northern England was the heartland of the Pals’ battalions throughout the First World War and was also at the centre of the huge industrial effort for the Somme.

“It’s therefore fitting that the focal point of remembrance and opportunities for people to learn about and reflect further on the enormity of the events at the Somme should be in our city.”

It is hoped that people from across the country will travel to Manchester to join the activities.

Ms Murphy added: “[We] want to give as many people as possible – young and old – the opportunity to observe, think, reflect, and participate in the commemorative events planned to mark this hugely important centenary.”

Free tickets for the concert can be claimed here.

Photo courtesy of Discovery TV, via YouTube, with thanks. 

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