Emotional trip marks the courage of Portsmouth troops killed in the Somme 100 years ago

SOLEMN tributes have been paid to the hundreds of war heroes from Portsmouth buried in France after being killed at the Battle of the Somme.

Tuesday, 6th September 2016, 6:00 am
Updated Tuesday, 6th September 2016, 8:41 am
The graves at Ancre of the soldiers who died at the Battle of the Somme Picture: Bob Beech

Saturday, September 3 marked the centenary of one of the most deadly moments for the city’s soldiers in the First World War.

On this date in 1916, the 1st Pompey Pals, 14th Battalion Hampshire Regiment, went ‘over the top’ just north of Hamel on the River Ancre.

The assault saw 457 of the 570 men to take part in the dawn attack injured or killed, leaving many families in Portsmouth devastated.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

To mark this sacrifice, a trio of men from project group Pompey Pals travelled to Ancre to mark the moment the city’s brave troops rushed towards the German lines.

Alan Laishley, a First World War researcher from Cosham, joined Barry Glanfield, of Southsea and Bob Beech, of Pompey Pals, on the trip.

The team paid their respects to troops buried at the Ancre British Cemetery before standing on the battleground near the graveyard just before dawn.

Mr Beech said it left all three of the men close to tears.

He said: ‘It was incredibly emotional. It was a beautiful late summer’s morning, similar to 100 years ago. We just stood there, all three of us. It was hard to believe that somewhere so beautiful was the scene of something so horrific.’

The trip was part of a series of commemoration events taking place this month to mark the men killed from the 1st and 2nd Pals.

Over the weekend, a wreath was also laid outside Fratton Park – which was a key recruitment site for the Pals.

And on Saturday, at 11am, a ceremony will take place at the Guildhall Square war memorial, in Portsmouth.

Speaking of the Battle of the Somme, Mr Beech added: ‘There wasn’t a street of Portsmouth that was left unaffected by the war.

‘It was one of the most deadly period for Portsmouth’s soldiers in the war.

‘It’s just so important to remember those guys who died and those guys who came back and lived with all the injuries and mental scars of the war.’

Some 750 men from the two Pompey Pals battalions were killed or injured in the conflict, with the battle killing 1.3 million men in total.