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Clitheroe Castle Vigil to Mark Centenary of the Somme

Published Monday, 06 June 2016

The centenary of the Battle of the Somme on 1 July will be marked with a public dawn-to-dusk vigil at Clitheroe Castle.

Lancashire residents are invited to take part in the vigil, which will be led by Ribble Valley Mayor Joyce Holgate, whose father, Thomas Henry Lawless, fought at the Somme with the 1st East Lancashire Regiment.

Fought between 1 July and 13 November, 1916, the Somme was one of the bloodiest military battles in history, claiming the lives of thousands of young Lancashire men. On the first day alone, the British suffered 58,000 casualties and by the end more than 1.5million men had lost their lives.

Participants at the vigil will pose on a plinth in the stance of Clitheroe Castle’s Unknown Soldier, who occupies a prominent position overlooking the town, his head bowed in the direction of Flanders.

Joyce Holgate said: “The Battle of the Somme had a profound impact on Lancashire people and the loss of life was devastating, with 1,000 young men losing their lives from Ribble Valley alone.

“For many, the Somme epitomises the horrors of the First World War, while for others it symbolises the bravery and sacrifice of our young men and their communities.

“My father fought at and survived the Somme, and his recollections of life in the trenches were graphic. The horrors he witnessed and endured were unspeakable, and the death of his younger brother, Francis, at Gallipoli was devastating.”

Chris Henig, Lancashire County Council's lead member for libraries and cultural services, said: "The Battle of the Somme has come to symbolise the enormous losses and dreadful conditions of the First World War.

"This vigil is a way in which Lancashire residents can pay their respects and commemorate those who paid the ultimate price. In this centenary year, we will pay a special tribute to what they did."

It is hoped that people of all ages from across Lancashire will take part in the vigil, as families, individuals, representatives of local organisations, school pupils, ex-service men and women, and current serving soldiers.

At 7.30am, a whistle will blow marking the start of the vigil, just as it did 100 years ago when solders went ‘over the top'. But instead of going into battle participants will be able to stand on a plinth next to the Unknown Soldier for two minutes as a personal mark of respect.

At dusk, the end of the vigil will be marked with a reading of Lancaster-born Laurence Binyon's poem 'For the Fallen' and the sounding of the Last Post.

The centenary of the Somme will also be marked at Clitheroe Castle’s Steward's Gallery with an exhibition called Lost Generation from 29 October to 29 January. 

Artist Andy Farr will be working with school pupils to create artwork, film and writing inspired by the lives and experiences of teenagers during the First World War.

In 2014, Ribble Valley Borough Council planted oak trees at 41 sites in memory of the borough's First World War fallen, with the final tree planted at Clitheroe Castle by His Royal Highness The Duke of Kent. 

As Ribble Valley came into being in 1974, precise records of the number of fallen in the borough do not exist, but it is believed to be around 1,000.

Lancashire residents who want to take part in the vigil are asked to register their interest at the Clitheroe Castle Museum on 01200 424568.

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