01/07/2015 Minister Humphreys in France to mark 99th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme
Wednesday, July 1st 2015
The Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Heather Humphreys TD, is today (Wednesday) in Thiepval and Guillemont in northern France for commemorative events to mark the 99th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme. As part of her trip, the Minister will attend services at the Ulster Tower, in memory of the 36th (Ulster) Division, and at the Celtic Cross in Guillemont, which acts as a memorial to the 16th (Irish) Division.
Speaking today Minister Humphreys said:
“It is hard to imagine the scale of suffering endured by soldiers involved in the five months of bitter fighting which took place at The Somme in 1916. It came to be known as the bloodiest battle of World War One, killing or injuring more than one million people.
“An estimated 3,500 soldiers from the island of Ireland were killed during the fighting. For many years, their contribution was overlooked. The World War One commemorations, which began last year, have allowed their stories to be told for the first time. It is important that we take an inclusive approach to the Decade of Centenaries, particularly as we move closer to 2016.
“Today I will travel to Guillemont, for a service at the town’s Celtic Cross in honour of the Irish soldiers from Leinster, Munster and Connacht who went to fight at the Somme. In separate services we will also remember the contribution of the Ulster Division, and the tens of thousands of Commonwealth soldiers who died.
“Next year, at home and abroad, we will commemorate the 100th anniversary of the 1916 Rising. As we move through 2016, the centenary of the Somme will be another important historic milestone, which must be commemorated respectfully and appropriately.”
Minister Humphreys will lay a wreath on behalf of the Irish Government at the Thiepval Memorial, which commemorates 72,085 Commonwealth soldiers and is the largest memorial built by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. In addition to being a memorial to the missing, Thiepval is also a battle memorial to the Franco-British offensive on the Somme in 1916.
The Minister will also participate in a service at the Ulster Tower to mark the contribution of the 36th (Ulster) Division to the Battle of the Somme. The Ulster Memorial Tower stands on what was the German front line during the Battle of the Somme, July to November 1916.
It is opposite Thiepval Wood from where the 36th (Ulster) Division made its historic advance on the 1st July 1916. The Tower was the first official memorial to be erected on the Western Front (dedicated on 19th November 1921).
Finally, Minister Humphreys will lay a wreath during a service in the village of Guillemont, at the Celtic Cross memorial to the 16th (Irish) Division, most of whose personnel were at the time of the Battle drawn from Leinster, Munster and Connacht.