SOMME ANNIVERSARY: Doncaster to honour WW1 battle heroes 100 years on

The Battle of the Somme was one of the bloodiest battles in human history.
The Battle of the Somme was one of the bloodiest battles in human history.

Tomorrow, Doncaster will join places across the world in remembering all those who gave their lives in the Battle of the Somme.

Civic Mayor Coun David Nevett will lead the centenrary tributes during a special public service and Commemoration Day at Doncaster Minster, with the help of local schoolchildren and history societies.

The Commemoration Day will launch a series of 100th anniversary events across the area - including a new exhibition based on personal testimonies, and cinema screenings of an original wartime film, The Battle of the Somme, which was watched by half of the country’s population during 1916.

It is all part of Doncaster 1914-18, a four-year project supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, which aims to build a picture of life in the local area between 1914 and 1918 to mark the centenary of the First World War.

“The Battle of the Somme was a landmark in history,” explains Jude Holland, Project Manager for Doncaster 1914-18.

“Fought between 1 July and November 1916, it was the largest and bloodiest battle of the First World War - and its impact changed the world.

“There were 60,000 casualties on the first day of the Battle alone – enough to fill Doncaster Rovers’ Keepmoat Stadium to capacity four times.

“It was described by the local newspaper as ‘Doncaster’s Hour of Sacrifice’, and would have touched families across Doncaster.”

The 1916–2016 Commemoration Day at Doncaster Minster will take place between 9.30am and 3pm with a special public service between 10.30 and 11.30am.

There will be new displays on wartime Doncaster, the Great War on Tour roadshow with hands-on family activities and crafts, contributions by the King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry

Regimental Museum as well as children from primary and secondary schools across the borough and local history groups.

Then, between July 14 and November 2, there will be film screenings of the Battle of the Somme - the original 1916 documentary that shook the world - at locations in Mexborough, Thorne, Doncaster, and Balby.

The event also features music and poetry inspired by the First World War from Mexborough’s Read to Write group, based on original research from the Mexborough and District Heritage Society.

Doncaster 1914-18’s pop-up museum the Great War on Tour will also be present with costumes to try on, and original and replica and displays about how the Battle of the Somme affected people in Doncaster.

A new exhibition, From Don to Somme: The King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry at War, using personal accounts and original objects to chart the lives of local men who served in the Battle of the Somme and on the Western Front in 1916, has also open at the King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry Museum in Doncaster Museum and Art Gallery.

And a centenary appeal is also being unveiled tomorrow to discover more about wartime Doncaster in 1916, and the Battle of the Somme’s ‘missing people.’

“We’re really keen to uncover stories about local people – both at home and on the frontline – who were involved in the Battle of the Somme,” said Victoria Ryves, Community and Education Engagement Officer for Doncaster 1914-18.

“As the event happened outside of our ‘living history’ we have sadly lost our connection to some of the local people who gave so much for their country.

“Do you have a Doncaster relative who served in the battle? Or can you help us find out about people like Arthur Baker of Carr House Road in Doncaster who died on the first day of the Battle, aged 21? We have his picture, but know nothing else about him – but somebody will! We’re hoping that people will visit a centenary event and share their family’s stories or memorabilia, or investigate their own family or street history at the Doncaster 1914-18 website.”

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