Portsmouth called to remember its fallen for Battle of the Somme centenary

FOR some of the thousands killed on the Somme, the battle lasted mere seconds. But for their loved ones, the pain lasted a lifetime.

Friday, 1st July 2016, 6:00 am
Updated Friday, 1st July 2016, 9:51 am

And today, 100 years on from the start of one of the bloodiest battles in history, Portsmouth is being called to remember those who sacrificed themselves to protect our freedom.

The city played a crucial role in the four-month First World War conflict, with almost 1,100 local men killed and countless more wounded during the battle.

Most of these came from the 14th and 15 Battalion of the Hampshire Regiment – known as the 1st and 2nd Pompey Pals.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

On September 3, 1916, 587 men from the 1st Pompey Pals were wiped out when they faced off against the Germans.

But there was more trauma to come for Portsmouth families when just days later, on September 15, the 2nd Pompey Pals lost about 500 of its ranks, with many more hurt.

Bob Beech helped set up the Pompey Pals project in 2013 and is now urging the city to unite and commemorate those killed in the 141-day battle.

He said: ‘The losses were horrific. The Battle of the Somme was just a mincing machine. In modern warfare we have seen the tragic losses of hundreds of soldiers in Afghanistan.

‘One soldier dying is tragic. Well, these deaths were happening on a minute-by-minute basis on the opening day of the Somme.

‘The death toll was terrible. Pompey’s biggest crowd last season was over 18,000. On the first day of the Somme, 19,240 British troops were killed.

‘That’s every person in Fratton Park dead in one morning. When you look at these figures you realise how horrific the Battle of the Somme was.’

Armed forces minister Penny Mordaunt joined calls for residents not to forget the heroics of their forefathers.

The Portsmouth North MP said: ‘It’s vital to remember the role of the Somme and how critical it was to our very way of life.

‘At a time when the country faces uncertainty and when there is pond life that is trying to stir up hatred and division that we remember the values of our nation and we use this to come together.

‘It’s an opportunity to remember how human beings are capable of incredible acts of bravery. It can be inspiring as well as incredibly sad.’

A service was being held at The Cenotaph in Guildhall Square from 7.15am with a minute silence at 7.30am – the moment the battle began.