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Poppies for the Somme

Some of you may wonder why what happened in a field in rural France 100 years ago is relevant today?

I would argue that in fact the Somme commemorations are very “of the moment”….

As we are about to vote on our country’s future in the E.U. I would ask you to take a moment to remember those involved in one of the bloodiest conflicts of WWI. For five months the British and French armies engaged the Germans in a brutal battle of attrition on a 15-mile front. 19,240 British soldiers lost their lives in the first day alone (with a total loss of some 60,000 lives). The final death toll was reported as 420,000 for the British, 200,000 for the French and the Germans losing 500,000.

So, whether you choose the “in” or “out” option on your ballot paper, please do exercise your right to vote – people died to preserve it.

To very little fanfare, on 28th September 2015 the Department for Culture, Media & Sport opened a ballot to the UK public for the opportunity to attend the 100th Anniversary Commemorations to be held at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission Thiepval Memorial in Northern France. We come from Forces families; in our house these things matter. We entered this ballot with little hope that we would be successful – to our amazement we were and two places, together with a whole host of security arrangements and instructions for the day were delivered via e-mail. Since January there has been much planning of travel arrangements in the Turner household. The appropriate wreath and commemorative pins have been duly ordered and received from the Royal British Legion and we are feeling very honoured to be part of this event on 1st July.

The Thiepval Memorial to the Missing, designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens and unveiled in 1932 is one of the main focal points for remembrance in the Somme and every year on 1st July a commemorative service is held there in remembrance of those who fought and died during the Battle of the Somme.

However, this year, the British and French Governments will jointly host a significantly larger event. 10,000 people are expected to attend this moving commemoration, with many dignitaries including Heads of State and senior members of the Royal Family showing their respect alongside invited members of the general public (us included). The ceremony will also be shown on large screens in several towns (Amiens, Albert and Arras) so those unable to obtain tickets can also participate.

With so much of the Press dedicating stories to the EU Referendum at present, this important event has remained largely unpublicised in the media. However, without the sacrifices made in both world wars, we may not even have the opportunity to vote in a Referendum at all. Now that is food for thought indeed….

Today is the last day you can register to vote in the Referendum. Having read this, I hope you too decide to exercise your vote.

As an aside, there is a very interesting article published by the BBC about the untold stories of deaf people in WW1 – take a peak!

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