Military personnel and civic leaders joined the youth of Plymouth today (Friday) in paying tribute to the dead of the battle of the Somme from 100 years ago.
Troops from the Royal Artillery, 6 Rifles and the Royal Navy, the Lord Mayor of Plymouth Pauline Murphy and children from seven schools marked the centenary of the bloodiest of battles ever involving the British Army in World War One. 29 Commando was brought together for that battle on the Somme as part of the Army’s 7th Division.
Lieutenant Colonel Jon Cresswell, commanding officer of Plymouth-based 29 Commando Regiment, led the event with a service at the Plymouth Naval Memorial on Plymouth Hoe. He said the event commemorated the loss of the ‘flower of a generation’. The tribute was carried out by today’s young future with wreath-laying and poetry-reading by children from schools including Notre Dame, Ridgeway, Mount Kelly, St Boniface, Victoria Road, Beechwood and Oakwood.
Lt Col Cresswell said: “Today is the 100th year since the biggest loss of life on any one day in the British Army’s history. This service is a tribute to all those who lost their lives. We have turned the usual service on its head by featuring the new generation with school children taking part in the main activities of laying wreaths and reading war poetry. They represent all the hopes, aspirations and dreams that disappeared with their forebears who died in the First World War.’’
The atmospheric event began replicating the events beginning the assault at the Somme. A whistle heralded gunfire in the trenches and was represented by rifle fire and a gun salute from the Citadel. As gun smoke drifted across the Hoe and Naval Memorial a two-minute-silence took place. Plymouth City Pipe Drums accompanied the event.
Callum Coot, of St Boniface School, attended and wore campaign medals belonging to his great, great-grandad who fought at the Somme. Callum said: “He was with the Scots Rifles. Being here makes me realise how much he went through fighting in the war. The medals are to honour him.’’
29 Commando Regiment Royal Artillery are the big-gun firing and targeting specialists of 3rd Commando Brigade Royal Marines and comprises Army Commandos together with personnel from the Royal Navy, Royal Marines and Royal Air Force. 29 Commando Regiment is a unit of the British Army under the command of the Royal Navy.
The event commemorates a huge loss of life: At 7.30am on 1st July 1916, the whistles sounded and twenty two divisions of the British Army on the Western Front assaulted across a twenty mile front of the German defensive line in Picardy on the Western Front. This was to be the baptism of fire of Kitchener’s New Army and the dawn of the British Army as an industrial and continental force.
The battle comprised a series of offensives and finally finished on 18 November. 420,000 British soldiers lost their lives but it is the first day of the offensive that lives on in popular memory as the greatest human disaster for the British Army with almost 20,000 men falling out of a total of 57,000 overall casualties. It was a battle that touched every town, village and family and today the name of the Somme resonates through our nation’s history as the ultimate in military disaster and human tragedy.