The Council have  announced details of a ceremony to  commemorate the Battle of the Somme centenary, to be held in Dumfries this Thursday

The ceremony will start at the Plainstanes in the town centre at 2.15pm after a civic lunch being hosted by the council in the Municipal Chambers in Dumfries.

Full details are listed below

1415 to 1500 (2.15pm to 3pm), Plainstanes, Midsteeple, High Street, Dumfries
Open air service of commemoration and performance by Somme Battlefield Pipe Band and Buccleuch and Queensberry Caledonia Pipe Band

1515 to 1600 (3.15pm to 4pm), Dumfries Museum, Rotchell Road, Dumfries
WW1 exhibition featuring local connections to the Battle of the Somme

The Battle of the Somme commenced at 0730 on 1 July 1916, when whistles were blown to announce the attack.

British and Colonial soldiers emerged from their trenches along a 15 mile front to attach the German lines to the north. French soldiers attacked along an 8 mile front to the south.

The aims of the battle were to relieve the French Army fighting at Verdun and to weaken the German Army.

Initially the French gained considerable territory while the British captured just 3 square miles of ground. However, over the course of the battle, the gains were lost to counter attacks. Without a decisive breakthrough, the battle turned into a stalemate.

For 7 days prior to 1 July, artillery bombarded the German lines, launching 1.7 million shells. However, the Germans had taken cover in deep reinforced bunkers from which they emerged when the bombardment ended, knowing that this signalled an imminent attack. With machine guns, they mowed down the advancing soldiers as they walked towards them.

The first day of the Somme offensive would turn out to be the bloodiest day in the history of the British Army. 19,240 British soldiers were killed. Another 38,230 were wounded.

Unfortunately, this was the first involvement in the war for many of Britain’s new volunteer army of Pals’ Battalions, which had been formed to encourage friends from the same community to join-up and serve. The carnage on the Somme resulted in catastrophic losses of young men from those communities, with whole units being wiped out. Local papers listed the dead, wounded and missing for weeks on end.

In the first 10 days of the battle, the French, using more experienced soldiers and more appropriate tactics, achieved almost all their more realistic objectives. They advanced several miles and took 12,000 German prisoners. But, they soon came to a halt and were as entrenched as the British. By the end of the battle, French casualties were around 200,000 (killed, missing our wounded).

A renewed offensive in September 1916 failed to make any significant impact. Heavy rains in October turned the battleground in a muddy quagmire. When the battle came to an end in November, 5 months of fighting had resulted in 1 million soldiers from the opposing sides being killed or wounded.

Councillor Archie Dryburgh, Armed Forces Champion, said, “The first day of the Battle of the Somme is one of the darkest days in our military history. In this centenary year, it’s important that we take the time to commemorate this awful battle and spare a thought for all those who were killed, wounded, and underwent life-changing experiences. ”