The public will be invited to the Thiepval Memorial in France on 1 July 2016 to mark the centenary of the Battle of the Somme, the Culture Secretary John Whittingdale announced today.
The joint Anglo-French commemoration of the Battle of the Somme is expected to attract great public interest, so tickets will be made available for the event. The 8,000 tickets will be allocated in pairs, free of charge, through a public online ballot. The ballot will be open to residents of the UK, France and Ireland on 28 September 2015. More details can be found on the Somme 2016 Ballot website at www.Somme2016.org The Somme was one of the bloodiest battles of the First World War, resulting in over one million casualties. A commemorative event is held at the Thiepval Memorial every year, but the centenary event in 2016 will be on a larger scale, with some 10,000 people attending.
Culture Secretary John Whittingdale said:
The tragic events at the Battle of the Somme left a deep mark on a huge scale - nearly everyone in the UK will have an ancestor who fought or died at the Somme. It’s important that people across the UK have the chance to remember and honour these brave soldiers. The centenary event will be an opportunity to not only pay tribute to those that sacrificed so much but to ensure that their legacy continues for generations. I am grateful to our French partners for working with us to commemorate the extensive loss on all sides on what will be an incredibly important and deeply moving event. The event will include representatives from the battle’s combatant nations, organisations such as The Royal British Legion, and members of the public. Plans are being made to broadcast the ceremony live to large screens in towns across the Somme region and the UK. There will also be a wide programme of events taking place in the UK. Events will also take place in France to mark the 141 days of the battle.
John Whittingdale also announced a further £4 million in National Lottery funding through the Heritage Lottery Fund’s First World War: then and now programme so communities can explore, conserve and share local heritage of the entire First World War. This new money will help even more people get involved and explore the inspirational stories of the conflict including those surrounding the Battle of the Somme.
Monsieur Jean-Marc Todeschini, Secrétaire d’Etat auprès du ministre de la Défense, en charge des Anciens combattants et de la Mémoire said:
In 2014, France entered the centenary of the Great War, a time of shared remembrance. A hundred years ago, our country was a global battlefield to which the Commonwealth nations, in a rush of comradeship, sent hundreds of thousands of their children. A hundred years later, the Somme is still exposing its scars, left by the bitter fighting between 1916 and 1918, and its places of remembrance that bear witness to France’s gratitude to the British soldiers who sacrificed their lives for her. Yesterday a land of suffering, today a land of shared remembrance, Thiepval, on 1 July 2016, will see a new expression of the friendship between France and Britain. Commonwealth War Graves Commission Director of External Relations Colin Kerr said: For nearly a century the Commonwealth War Graves Commission Thiepval Memorial has stood as a silent witness to the sacrifice of those who died on the Somme in the First World War. There is no more fitting place to mark the anniversary of the battle, the human cost of which was felt in communities all over the world. The Commission is pleased to support our partners in the UK and French government for an inclusive commemoration – one that will capture the imagination of all generations and communities; one that allows them to pay respect, to visit, to be moved and to learn.
Vice Admiral Peter Wilkinson CB CVO, National President of The Royal British Legion, said:
The Royal British Legion organises a Service of Commemoration each year at Thiepval Memorial to remember all those who fought and died in the Battle of the Somme. It is a great honour to be part of a much larger event in 2016 to mark the 100th anniversary of what was one of the most ferocious battles of the First World War. The contemporaries of those that made the ultimate sacrifice in the Battle of the Somme are no longer with us. Now the torch of remembrance has passed to a younger generation. The public support for the First World War centenary commemorations to date has been overwhelming and has demonstrated that there will always be a living legacy to those who gave their lives for the freedom we have today.