PICTURES: Hastings marks Battle of the Somme first day centenary

Battle of the Somme service in Alexandra Park. Photo by Frank Copper. SUS-160107-100852001
Battle of the Somme service in Alexandra Park. Photo by Frank Copper. SUS-160107-100852001

Dignitaries and residents paid their respects to the thousands who died on the first day of the Battle of the Somme 100 years ago in Hastings this morning (Friday, June 1).

Vigils are being held all over the world to mark the moment on July 1, 1916, the battle began which killed nearly 20,000 British soldiers on the first day alone.

Battle of the Somme service in Alexandra Park. Photo by Frank Copper. SUS-160107-100726001

Battle of the Somme service in Alexandra Park. Photo by Frank Copper. SUS-160107-100726001

The memorial service was organised by the Royal British Legion (RBL) to mark the centenary of one of the bloodiest battles of World War One, and British history, in Alexandra Park.

RBL Hastings and St Leonards branch chairman Trevor Foord said it was a good turnout despite the weather, estimating around 80 people attended, and emphasised the importance of remembering the fallen.

“It’s part of our recent history, it’s not ancient history, so it’s still well known by many people and they showed their respects,” he said.

Standards from the Royal Naval Association, the Royal Air Force Association and the Royal British Legion were carried.

Battle of the Somme service in Alexandra Park. Photo by Frank Copper. SUS-160107-100804001

Battle of the Somme service in Alexandra Park. Photo by Frank Copper. SUS-160107-100804001

The service began at 7.30am with three whistle blasts to replicate the same signal given to tell the troops to go ‘over the top’ of the trench parapet to start the battle.

Trumpets played The Last Post before two minutes silence was observed and the High Sheriff of East Sussex Michael Foster, mayor Judy Rogers and deputy major Nigel Sinden then laid wreaths at the war memorial.

Chaplain and St Clements Church’s Rev Richard Featherstone led the service paying tribute the men who were killed and urged people to always remember and the national anthem was played to bring the service to a close.

Hastings and St Leonards Veterans’ Association chairman Richard Butcher said: “It’s important that we remember as the scale of the casualties the Somme had on the British army in particular the infantry, was so enormous.

Battle of the Somme service in Alexandra Park. Photo by Frank Copper. SUS-160107-100740001

Battle of the Somme service in Alexandra Park. Photo by Frank Copper. SUS-160107-100740001

“I visited the Somme battlefields and memorial in April this year and it’s quite shocking to see all the deaths recorded in their thousands.

More than a million men were killed and wounded on all sides in the WW1 battle which lasted more than four months in a brutal war of attrition along a 15-mile front near the River Somme in northern France.

Members of the royal family and PM David Cameron are attending an international ceremony at the Somme Memorial in Thiepval along with the standard of the Hastings Royal Sussex branch being paraded there.

Mr Butcher added: “We must remember, lest we forget. If you fail to remember the sacrifices of the past you are likely to have to relive them once again.”

Battle of the Somme service in Alexandra Park. Photo by Frank Copper. SUS-160107-100818001

Battle of the Somme service in Alexandra Park. Photo by Frank Copper. SUS-160107-100818001

The veterans’ association is holding another memorial service to commemorate the battle’s anniversary with the Royal Sussex Regimental Association at 2pm on Sunday (July 3).

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Battle of the Somme service in Alexandra Park. Photo by Frank Copper. SUS-160107-100830001

Battle of the Somme service in Alexandra Park. Photo by Frank Copper. SUS-160107-100830001

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Battle of the Somme service in Alexandra Park. Photo by Frank Copper. SUS-160107-100752001

Battle of the Somme service in Alexandra Park. Photo by Frank Copper. SUS-160107-100752001

Battle of the Somme service in Alexandra Park. Photo by Frank Copper. SUS-160107-100841001

Battle of the Somme service in Alexandra Park. Photo by Frank Copper. SUS-160107-100841001