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Chris Radburn/PA Wire
World News

Churches commemorate fallen Somme heroes

by Hannah Tooley

Friday honoured the thousands of soldiers killed in the Battle of the Somme 100 years after the bloodiest day in British military history.

Ceremonies across the United Kingdom honoured the hundreds of thousands of victims of the brutal offensive which started in northern France on July 1 1916.

A two-minute silence ended at 7.30am, the time when the British, Commonwealth and French forces went "over the top" a century ago.

The British Army suffered almost 60,000 casualties on the first day alone and more than a million men would be killed or wounded on both sides over the course of the 141-day offensive.

Canon Philip Barratt from Manchester Cathedral, where a special service was held, told Premier's News Hour why churches are so important to this occasion.

He said: "I think the role of the church is really quite key, because I think what we have to bring is a Christian perspective right into the centre of where people are.

"I think what we're trying to do is just remember that on everyday battle field during the First World War there was padre [chaplain] and he was preaching the Gospel."

Chris Radburn/PA Wire
Chris Radburn/PA Wire
Chris Radburn/PA Wire

Canon Philip Barratt said that churches are vital in Somme commemorations: "We made a promise that we will remember then, remembrance is a huge part of humanity.

"For us as Christians, we hold those people before God and remember all that that was about."

At the Scottish National War Memorial in Edinburgh Castle, Alan Hamilton blew the whistle which his great uncle Robert used when leading men into battle 100 years ago.

He said: "He was attached to a Scottish unit as an observation officer and he blew this whistle on July 1 at 7.30am 100 years ago to take his men over the top into action.

"He went forward with the regiment and, because of the high rate of casualties among the officers, he ended up commanding the regiment until he was wounded and evacuated.

"After the war, my father was given the whistle by uncle Robert, then carried it through the whole of the Second World War when he was in the RAF, and when I joined the Army he passed it on to me.

"I carried it for 41 years and my son, who is a corporal in the Army, will be getting the whistle once these commemorations are over."

Chris Radburn/PA Wire

Listen to Premier's Hannah Tooley speak to Canon Philip Barratt here:

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