01/07/2013 – 97th anniversary of the battle of the Somme: 1 July, 2013.
The Battle of the Somme, whose 97th anniversary is commemorated this year, began on 1 July 1916 in the high expectation of a major victory that would bring the carnage of the First World War to an end. By the time it petered out in the rain and snow of the following November, more than one million soldiers from both sides had died without making any appreciable alteration in the opening position.
Among the dead were over 3,500 Irish soldiers, with many more wounded. This large loss of life was made even more horrendous by its occurrence within the short space of the first day of the Battle and two days in the following September. In particular, the 5,500 casualties of the 36th Ulster Division on 1 July were men drawn almost entirely from one community in the province of Ulster. Nearly 2,000 soldiers from cities, towns, villages and town lands of the North were killed in the first few hours of fighting.
In a continuation of the same battle, the 16th Irish Division had 4,330 casualties in September, of whom 1,200 were killed. These came mainly from the other three provinces. Added to these were the Irish soldiers who fought in other divisions as part of the regular army or in the newly raised battalions. The total number of Irish casualties cannot be calculated with certainty.
Representing the Government, Minister of State at the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Dinny McGinley TD will attend at the memorial services on the Somme where commemorations will take place at Thiepval, Guillemont and at the Ulster Tower. Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Mr Joe Costello TD will represent the Government at commemorations in Belfast.