It was the bloodiest day in the history of the British Army.

On July 1, 1916, more than 21,000 British and Commonwealth soldiers died and 36,000 were injured on the first day of the Battle of the Somme.

Over the following five months more than a 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.

And now, a century later, Kirklees is remembering those who fell on the Somme battlefield with a weekend of commemorative events at the Tolson Memorial Museum in Huddersfield.

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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.

Yorkshire troops on the Somme

Commemorations start on Friday, July 1, with a memorial service in the Heritage Memorial Garden at the rear of the museum in Ravensknowle Park, on Wakefield Road.

The civic event, to which everyone is welcome, will be attended by the Mayor and Mayoress of Kirklees and officiated by the Bishop of Huddersfield. It starts at 2pm and the Royal British Legion, army veterans and local schoolchildren will be at the special tribute to those who died.

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Later there will be a showing in the museum of 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 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. It starts at 7.30pm (doors open 7pm) and is free, 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’.

A wounded German prisoner of war assisting wounded British soldiers on the Somme front
A wounded German prisoner of war assisting wounded British soldiers on the Somme front

Costumed characters will bring the era to life, there will be artefacts to handle, costumes to try on and children will have lots to make and do.

Visitors are invited to bring photographs and objects from the time to share with experts, and there will be tours of the museum’s First World War exhibition. The free event runs from 1pm to 4pm.

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.

“We cannot allow any generation to forget the sacrifices that have been made on our behalf throughout history.”

For further information or to book places at the film showing, contact Tolson Memorial Museum on 01484 223240 or email

* The Examiner will feature an eight page Somme supplement in next Wednesday’s paper.