A moving service was held in Fulham to reflect on the sacrifices made by soldiers 100 years after one the First World War’s most brutal battles.
The commemorative service to mark the centenary of the Battle of the Somme was held on 1 July at St John’s Church and attended by veterans from Fulham based charity Stoll, its staff and other guests.
Father Simon Brandes led the service and urged people to never forget the bravery and courage of those who experienced the fearsome battle, facing pounding artillery, gunfire and shrapnel each day.
Cllr Alan De’Ath, H&F Representative for the Armed Forces, said: “As we remember and commemorate those who died or were left with physical or mental scars on all sides of the conflict, we must also remember the progress Europe has made since.
“It reminds us the peace our forefathers and foremothers have built is fragile and must be defended, strengthened and valued. Our shared history is a lesson we must never forget.”
The Battle of the Somme fought in the mud and trenches of France and resulted in nearly half a million casualties as for the first time tanks and machine guns were used to devastating effect.
It later became referred to as the ‘War to end all wars’.
At Friday’s service, there were readings by Stoll chief executive, Ed Tytherleigh, Stoll resident, Val Gritz and Sue Wallace and Major Roy Clarke from the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers Association (Corp of Drums London) played the Last Post and Reveille.
Ian Paul Belcher a Stoll resident who served in Northern Ireland and on UN peacekeeping missions, said: “Thousands of young men were killed on this very day. They believed in a just cause and they died for it. It’s important we remember them. Wives lost husbands, mothers lost sons, sisters lost brothers.”
60,000 men died on the first day of the Battle of the Somme – over 600,000 died before the end of the battle. Nearly half of those who died were support personnel including medical, catering and logistics staff.
Stoll also celebrates its centenary this year, having provided support and housing for ex-Service men and women from H&F and beyond since 1916. It is hosting a series of events throughout 2016 to mark its centenary.
To donate or find out more, visit the website.
A meet and greet session for armed forces and national service veterans aged over 65 will be held on Wednesday 13 July between 4pm and 7pm. It is a chance to make new friends over a cup of tea and relatives and carers are welcome.
This one-off session is being run in partnership by Blind Veterans UK and Stoll, but regular drop-ins for veterans of all ages are also held at the Sir Oswald Stoll Mansions in Fulham Road, Fulham, on the second Wednesday of every month. Call 020 7385 2110 to find out more.