Manchester Remembers The Somme Centenary

The city is hosting a series of events on behalf of the nation to commemorate the First World War battle, with tens of thousands expected to pay their respects at a military parade, cathedral service and evening concert.

It is part of commemorations held across the UK and France marking the start of the battle on July 1 1916, the bloodiest in British military history.

Almost 20,000 men were killed on the first day alone, more than in the entire Crimean, Boer and Korean Wars combined.

Many of the dead were from the patriotic Pals battalions formed in Lancashire and across the North and for more than 60% of the Army, this was their first experience of war.

By the end of battle, lasting 141 days, more than a million soldiers had been killed and wounded on both sides of the fighting in northern France.

Overnight and until dawn today the Imperial War Museum North in Manchester was lit with huge light projections of images in memory of the soldiers who would have been preparing to go into battle one hundred years ago.

The Queen, senior royals and politicians are to attend services both in the UK and France, and events in the UK will begin with a national two minutes silence at 7.28am, to mark the moment the first wave of soldiers went over the top.

Events in Manchester begin with a wreath laying ceremony at 1.45pm at the Cenotaph in St Peter's Square, followed by a parade featuring military personnel and descendants of those who fought at the Somme, marching past Manchester Town Hall at 2pm, continuing along John Dalton Street and Deansgate to finish at Manchester Cathedral, where a service of commemoration will be held for 1,000 guests at 3pm.

Tonight at 7.30pm, an evening of remembrance will begin for 20,000 guests at Heaton Park, on the outskirts of the city, which was used as a training camp for soldiers before they were sent to the trenches.

The park will ring out again to songs popular with soldiers at the time, including It's a Long Way to Tipperary, Pack Up Your Troubles and Keep the Home Fires Burning, sung by a children's choir and accompanied by the Halle Orchestra.

The concert will close at sunset with poet Lemn Sissay reading a commissioned piece dedicated to the memories of the lives lost and changed forever during the trench warfare, before Colour Sergeant Jonathon Hammond plays the Last Post to round off the day-long commemorations.

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