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Commemoration of the Centenary of the Battle of the Somme

By John Payne, Committee Member

 This week I represented the Society at two contrasting commemorations of the centenary of the Battle of the Somme. On Thursday evening I had the honour of attending the national service of remembrance and vigil at Westminster Abbey. All together there were eight members of Civic Voice and volunteers from civic groups from around the country at the Service. We joined the Queen and Prince Philip together with the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition in a very moving short service, which was followed by an overnight vigil around the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

 Service at Westminster Abbey

Picture: Some of the volunteers from civic groups including Cheltenham, Coventry, Southgate and Worcester attending the Somme Commemoration service at Westminster Abbey.

By contrast, the following morning I was invited to a School Assembly at Eden Girls School in Stoney Stanton Road. Some of the girls in Year 9 had visited World War I battlefields and had researched two soldiers who had died at the battle of the Somme. The Assembly included information about the Battle of the Somme, music, poetry and readings from soldiers present at the battle and two minutes silence in memory of those who died in the most devastating of all battles. Some children had created painting relating to the War.

After the Assembly the girls and their teacher unveiled a memorial garden that they are creating in memory of the two soldiers that they had researched; Private Philip Gray West, aged 33 and Private A. H. Carpenter, aged 27. The memorial had been created as part of a project called Legacy 110, which is an initiative which encourages students who engage in the First World War Centenary Battlefields Tour Programme to deliver a community-based First World War project.

Eden Girls School memorial

Picture: The girls of Year 9 of Eden Girls School unveil their memorial garden.

I recorded Coventry’s newest War Memorial for the War Memorials Online database and our website, bringing to 72 the number of First World War memorials in the city that we have surveyed.

1st July 2016

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