Whistle for the Somme

Men in the trenches during the Battles of the Somme.
Men in the trenches during the Battles of the Somme.

On Friday, July 1, at 7.30am, it will be exactly 100 years since the start of the Battle of the Somme.

That day was a terrible and tragic day, as of the 100 British and Commonwealth men who went ‘over the top’ to attack the German positions in Picardy, 19,340 were killed and 38,500 were wounded.

Forty men from the Alnwick area were killed in action or died of wounds on July 1, 1916.

The Tyneside Scottish brigade whose training in Alnwick the Northumberland branch of the Western Front Association (WFA) commemorated last year had some of the heaviest losses that day.

Nationally, the WFA is supporting a campaign called Whistle for the Somme, which calls on people to blow a whistle three times at precisely 7.30am at their local war memorial on Friday, July 1.

In so doing, it will echo the blowing of the whistles which sent those 100,000 men over the top into no-man’s land and to their fate a century ago.

If any communities in north Northumberland are holding events next Friday, contact Ben O’Connell on ben.oconnell@jpress.co.uk or 01665 602234 and we will publish a list in next week’s Gazette.

The Battle of the Somme went on from July 1 until November 18, 1916, and the Northumberland branch of the WFA will be hosting an event on November 13 this year, in partnership with Bailiffgate Museum to mark the end of the battle. This will feature a screening of the original Battle of the Somme film shot in 1916.

Anyone interested in learning more about the First World War is encouraged to go along to one of the WFA’s monthly meetings which take place at 7.15pm (for 7.30pm) at Alnmouth and District Ex-Servicemen’s Club, Northumberland Street, Alnmouth, on the fourth Monday of every month (except August and December).

The next WFA meeting will be held this coming Monday, June 27, when Professor Emeritus John Derry will deliver his talk, 1916 – Three Battles and Their Aftermath.

A warm welcome awaits visitors and WFA members new to the branch. The suggested minimum donation is £2, to include light refreshments. Further details can be obtained from the branch secretary, Dave Barras, on 01670 760809 or dbarras1970@gmail.com