France prepares for Battle of Somme centenary
United Kingdom – Commemoration of the Battle of the Somme centenary – Reply given by M. Jean-Marie Le Guen, Minister of State for Relations with Parliament, to a question in the National Assembly (excerpts)
Paris, 21 June 2016
You’re right to recall that, 100 years ago, men from every continent confronted each other for 141 days during a terrible battle, known as the Battle of the Somme. The conflict, which began on 1 July 1916, was carnage from day one: 60,000 men were killed or wounded in the first 24 hours. On this part of the front alone, the confrontation was to kill 400,000 and wound 800,000 between July and November 1916.
This battle took the heaviest toll on our British allies.
The Battle of the Somme is to Britain’s collective memory what the Battle of Verdun is to ours: a symbol of the horror of war, the absurdity of a self-destructing Europe and the bravery of the soldiers.
For all these reasons, the preparation for the Battle of the Somme centenary has prompted major Franco-British investment, under the coordination of the Mission du Centenaire on the French side. For 141 days, an exceptional commemorative season will be organized, with the high point being the ceremonies organized on 1 July. A total of 20,000 people are expected for the occasion, including 10,000 in Thiepval for the Franco-British ceremony. The state services are mobilized to a very large extent to ensure the security of these events. Many countries, from the Commonwealth in particular, will participate, and it has been announced that the British Royal Family, Prime Minister David Cameron and the Irish President will attend. (…)./.