On Friday, July 1, 1916 over 21,000 British and Commonwealth soldiers died and another 36,000 were injured at the Somme.
In total over the next five months, over one million were killed or wounded on all sides as British and French armies engaged the Germans in a futile battle of attrition on a 15-mile front in northern France.
Indeed, the whole rationale behind fighting the First World War has been called into question over the years with the Marxist Professor Terry Eagleton famously describing it as a “largely meaningless massacre.”
Kirklees is remembering those who fell on the Somme battlefield with a weekend of commemorative events at Tolson Memorial Museum, in Ravensknowle Park, which has a particularly poignant connection with the Somme.
The museum was given to the town in memory of Robert Tolson, who died that first day of the Somme, his brother James who died in action in 1918, and all those from the Huddersfield area who fought and died in the First World War.
Commemorations start at 2pm on Friday with a memorial service in the Heritage Memorial Garden at the rear of the museum in Ravensknowle Park.
This civic event, to which everyone is welcome, will be attended by the Mayor and Mayoress of Kirklees and led by the Bishop of Huddersfield, the Right Rev Jonathan Gibbs.
Visitors can join the Royal British Legion, army veterans and local schoolchildren in a special tribute to those who died.
Later on Friday the museum is showing the film ‘The Battle of the Somme’ (PG) which was filmed and screened in cinemas in 1916.
It was the first-ever feature-length documentary about war and the powerful and emotional film presents real-life footage from the first few weeks of the ‘Big Push’. In the year of its release around 20 million people watched it – many hoping to see the image of a loved one or friend captured on film. The film starts at 7.30pm (doors open 7pm) and is free to attend but places must be booked.
On Sunday, July 3, families can get involved in the commemoration weekend with a special event, ‘The First World War 100 Years On’.
Costumed characters will bring the First World War era to life, there will be artefacts to handle, costumes to try on and children will have lots to make and do.
In addition visitors are invited to bring along their photographs and objects from the time to share with experts. There will also be tours of the museum’s First World War exhibition. This free event runs from 1pm to 4pm.
The Mayor of Kirklees, Clr Jim Dodds, said: “Even though I have served 35 years in the Army and been on active service, it is impossible to envisage the horrors that met those brave men as they went over the top during the Great War.
“Both my grandfathers served during World War I, only one survived and the other was killed just six weeks before Armistice. We cannot allow any generation to forget the sacrifices that have been made on our behalf throughout history. World War I was the war to end all wars - unfortunately it did not and there is not a day goes by without a British soldier putting their life on the line so that we may live in peace.”
Places can be booked for the film by contacting the Museum on 01484 223240 or emailing email@example.com