Members of Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council travelled to northern France on July 1 for a special event at the Thiepval Memorial to mark the 101st anniversary of the Battle of the Somme.
The local councillors followed the Rt Hon Lord Edward Llewellyn OBE PC, HM Ambassador to France, in paying tribute to the fallen and laid a wreath in their memory.
The Thiepval Memorial records the names of 72,191 soldiers who fell on the Somme battlefields but to whom the fortune of war denied the known and honoured burial given to their comrades in death. The simple inscription carved on the memorial states “The Missing... of the Somme”.
The council delegation also attended an event at the Ulster Memorial Tower to commemorate the 36th (Ulster) Division’s brave actions and remember its heavy losses.
The soldiers of the 36th (Ulster) Division left the British front lines at the eastern end of Thiepval Wood, crossed No Man’s Land and broke through German defences, advancing about a mile beyond their starting positions. Difficulty in supplying ammunition, food and water to the forward positions and the risk of German counter attacks in the flank risked the Irish soldiers being cut off, and so lead to the decision to withdraw back to the German front line.
The Division won three Victoria Crosses but in doing so suffered 4,900 losses on the first day of the offensive.
Following the memorial service and wreath laying, the council presented Mrs Carol Walker, Director of the Somme Association, with a Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council plaque to be placed in the tower.
Members of the council also laid a wreath during a service at Wytschaete, held to mark the courage and sacrifice of the 16th (Irish) Division.
From the 3rd - 9th September 1916, the Division was involved in fighting at Guillemont and Ginchy. In capturing both towns the Division was devastated, suffering over 4,000 casualties. During the battle, the 16th (Irish) Division distinguished themselves by winning two Victoria Crosses.
Officers and buglers and pipers from the 2nd Battalion the Royal Irish Regiment and representatives of the Irish Defence Force also took part in the memorial service.