The Nottinghamshire Heritage Forum has conducted a commemorative event in conjunction with Nottinghamshire County Council to mark the centenary of the first day of the Battle of the Somme.
The civic event, held at Nottinghamshire County Hall, was attended by Leader of the County Council Alan Rhodes, Armed Forces Champion Cllr Ian Campbell, Chairman of the County Council Yvonne Woodhead and various other distinguished guests.
There were also representatives from local museums and the Nottinghamshire Heritage Forum in attendance, who were dressed in traditional garments of the time as part of the experience. The Heritage Forum provided a variety of displays and a special showing of a World War One propaganda film which were seen by attendees.
The event was the first of a series for the Heritage Forum, with the film set to be shown at six venues across the local area in the coming months, the next of which is in Nottingham Castle on 23rd July.
The fascinating displays included exhibits from Clipstone Camp showcasing the area’s impact on the War, the Museum of the Horse in Tuxford who provided Wartime cavalry equipment, information from Radcliffe-on-Trent detailing how the war affected the local area and its people, and a display by the Heritage Forum with artefacts from Bilsthorpe Heritage Centre, Flintham Museum, Ruddington Village Museum and the National Civil War Centre.
The day began with a military service in front of the Memorial Plaque at the front of County Hall, with the County Council Choir singing several wartime songs and readings being given by various military and county personnel.
Over a million people are thought to have died over the course of the Battle of the Somme, one of the most deadly battles in British history, with the British sustaining roughly 60 000 casualties on the first day alone. Two minutes of silence were observed at 11am to commemorate these losses.
Attendees were then invited inside to view the displays and exhibitions, with the captivating information entertaining all in attendance.
Skye Barrett and Caitlin Peck, MA Heritage students at Nottingham Trent University who helped setup and organise the event with the Nottinghamshire Heritage Forum, then introduced the gripping film from 1916. The film showed various aspects of life on the frontline, as well as some footage of troops in action on 1st July 1916.
The enthralling film was originally viewed by a staggering 20 million people within just six weeks of its release, and at one point Nottinghamshire locals raised concern over the fact that children could be admitted to the cinema to see it for a penny on weekends. However, the film proved so popular that this concern was ignored.
Members of the Western Front Association and Neil Bettison, Community Development Officer, gave specialist insight into the images being shown, adding absorbing knowledge to the film.
Councillor Woodhead brought the event to a close by stating that “The statistics barely show the horror or the heroism.”
She went on to say that “Our worst day was also our best day,” and that we must work to “reconcile the past moving forward.”
Skye Barrett said of the event; “It was really nice to be a part of the project right through its development. It’s really increased my sense of community.”
Caitlin Peck echoed her sentiment. “It’s been great to see the project grow from its beginning. And it’s been nice to engage audiences who don’t normally go to museums – it’s been very rewarding to connect with people in the county.”
The film experience, complete with compelling displays, will next be shown in Nottingham Castle on 23rd July.