Fifty gather at 7.30am in North Walsham to remember the moment thousands went ‘over the top’ in Battle of the Somme
- Credit: Archant
Some 50 people gathered in North Walsham churchyard early this morning to remember those killed in the Battle of the Somme, which began 100 years ago.
Colin Chambers, chairman of North Walsham Royal British Legion (RBL) blew three short blasts on a whistle at 7.30am, the time the order was given for the soldiers to go 'over the top'.
Four North Walsham men were among the 19,000 British troops killed on the first day.
Dorothy Smith, nee Whitwood, who was among those at the ceremony, is the great niece of one of the 8th Norfolk Regiment quartet killed, Albert James Whitwood.
Mrs Smith remembers that her grandfather kept his brother Albert's war medal in a dresser but did not talk about him.
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'They didn't talk about the war in those days. I found this morning very emotional,' said Mrs Smith, from Mundesley.
The ceremony was held in the churchyard, under the great East window, dedicated to the memory of North Walsham's First World War dead.
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As 1916 progressed, a further 22 North Walsham men were killed, mostly during the Battle of the Somme which went on to claim more than one million lives on both sides.
Salvation Army cornet player Paul Watts sounded the last post while John Steele, standard bearer for the Norwich branch of the Royal Norfolk/Royal Anglian Regiment, dipped the standard.
Maj Gen Sir William Cubitt, president of the RBL in Norfolk, who lives near North Walsham, read the Exhortation: 'They shall grow not old...' and, after a two-minute silence and the Reveille, the Dedication: 'When you go home...'
Joseph Ballard, director of North Walsham-based Arts North Norfolk, read an extract from a soldier's diary describing the scene on July 1916.
The Vicar of North Walsham, Rev Paul Cubitt, conducted the ceremony and led prayers.
After the event, Sir William said: 'I was impressed by the turnout. It's very nice to see that people register with this event and want to come to this particular place so early in the morning.'