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CATHEDRAL APPEALS FOR SOMME STORIES

Worcester Cathedral is inviting people from across the county and the borough of Dudley to get in touch with them about relatives or people they might have known who were involved in the Battle of the Somme. 2016 marks the centenary of the battle, an immense struggle in France during the First World War which lasted for 141 days between July and November 1916 and which epitomised on an unprecedented scale the hardships of soldiers on the Western Front. In association with schools and regimental organisations, the cathedral is laying on a service of commemoration at 2 pm on 1 July, the day on which the battle began and during which, in a single day, 20,000 British soldiers were killed, and a further 40,000 were wounded.

The service will be preceded by workshops for secondary schools, looking at diaries and letters of those involved, and providing opportunities to respond in music and drama. The service will feature scenes of re-enactment from the workshops, as well as extracts, sung by pupils, from The Armed Man by Karl Jenkins.

As part of this commemoration, the cathedral is mounting an exhibition of county memorabilia about those who were involved in the battle - either at the Front, or for example at hospitals treating the wounded - and would welcome contributions. Those in the county of Worcestershire or borough of Dudley who had friends or relatives involved in the battle of the Somme are invited to submit copies of letters, photos or other reminiscences to Mr Roger Brunt who is co-ordinating the exhibition which will be viewable at the service and for some days afterwards. Roger’s email address is rogermbrunt@gmail.com

Mrs Sue Adeney, cathedral education officer, said: ‘National commemorations of the day include an all-night vigil in Westminster Abbey, and national services in Manchester and Belfast. Here in Worcestershire and the borough of Dudley, many local people were involved in the battle through various regiments; not least the Worcestershire Regiment. It’s most appropriate that we remember the sacrifices of 1 July 1916 as part of a great national endeavour to build a more peaceful future.’

The Reverend Canon Dr Michael Brierley, precentor at the cathedral, said: ‘The 1st July 1916 was the worst day in the history of the British army - arguably the worst day in the history of Britain - and so represents a tragic mid-point between the outbreak of war in August 1914, and the armistice in November 1918. This service will bring young and old together - school pupils as well as representatives of service organisations - and everyone is warmly welcome.’