Whistle for the Somme begins 141-day tribute
Tomorrow morning at 7.30am a member of Haverhill Royal British Legion will blow three short blasts on a whistle at the town’s war memorial.
It will be 100 years to the hour after officers on the Western Front did the same thing to send the men over the top and begin the Battle of the Somme.
By the end of July 1, 1916, British and Commonwealth forces had about 57,500 dead and injured and the battle continued until November 18 – 141 days.
Friday’s Whistle for the Somme will be the first of Haverhill’s events to mark the centenary.
A wall of 20,000 poppies will stand in St Mary’s churchyard until November 18, one for each life lost on the first day of the battle.
Haverhill school children have woven 20,000 Royal British Legion poppies into mats that will be suspended from a scaffolding donated by a local company. The children will unveil their work at 9.30am.
Between Friday and Sunday, St Mary’s Church will also hold two special displays. Members of the church will honour the one million casualties of the Somme, including 23 Haverhill men, with their floral tributes.
There will also be a Great War Exhibition in the church, by Haverhill Family History Group and the Royal British Legion, where visitors can find out more about life on the battle fronts and life at home in Haverhill, with the stories of the local casualties.
On Saturday at 11am at St Mary’s Church, historian William Tyler gives a free talk about the Battle of the Somme.
William said; “100 Years ago this July the British Army fought the bloodiest battle in all its history.
“One historian has written that we didn’t get over it then, and we haven’t got over it still. For the nation, as well as for individuals, the Somme is forever etched in our memory.”
Six Suffolk Regiment battalions took part in the Battle of the Somme, though many local men would have fought with pother regiments in the battle, which also saw the first use of tanks, which had been tested on Suffolk’s Elveden Estate.
Allied forces also included soldiers from Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Bermuda, India, South Africa and Rhodesia (Zimbabwe).