Seaham gathers to remember men claimed in first day of Battle of the Somme

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Crowds gathered to remember the men who were sacrificed on the first day of the Battle of the Somme a century on.

Seaham lost 64 men on July 1, 1916, with a further 109 killed during the offensive.

Battle of the Somme ceremony at Terrace Green Seaham.

Battle of the Somme ceremony at Terrace Green Seaham.

Today, veterans, dignitaries and school children joined residents for a service at the cenotaph on Terrace Green and in the shadow of the Tommy statue, which was inspired by the trauma First World War’s soldiers experienced.

A cross was laid for each of the servicemen claimed a century ago by their relatives and volunteers as their names were read out.

The Last Post was held, with a flare fired at 11am, as a minute’s silence was brought to a close.

A letter written by John Scollen, a Seaham Colliery pitman, on the eve of the battle was read out by his great-great grandson Jack.

For us, we saw doing this today as our duty for the 64 men and for everyone else who was lost.

Dave McKenna of the Seaham Remember Them Fund

John died aged 42, leaving seven children and his wife Christina, while his brother-in-law and colleague John Patrick McCabe, known as Paddy, was 40 when he died in the Somme.

The event was organised by Dave McKenna, of the Seaham Remember Them Fund, with the support of the town’s branch of the Royal British Legion, East Durham Heritage Group, Seaham Town Council, Seaham School of Technology and Ropery Walk Primary.

The service was led by Reverend Paul Harrison, of Christ Church, and attended by Captain Tim Simpson, of the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers.

Mr McKenna, an ex-Colour Sergeant in the regiment, said: “As this is the 100th anniversary, something like this will never happen again.

Battle of the Somme ceremony at Terrace Green Seaham.

Battle of the Somme ceremony at Terrace Green Seaham.

“For us, we saw doing this today as our duty for the 64 men and for everyone else who was lost.

“The Somme was the bloodiest of battles and for me, personally, of those 64, 54 of the were from my regiment.

“To think a town as small as Seaham lost 64 men in one day, to think if we woke up today to find 64 blokes from the harbour had been killed, there would be shock and horror.”

Mayor Sue Morrison, who joined Easington MP Grahame Morris among representatives and was among those to lay a wreath, added: “I’m very proud to be here to represent the people of Seaham and remember those who fell 100 years ago.

Battle of the Somme ceremony at Terrace Green Seaham.
Seaham veteran Derek Bland

Battle of the Somme ceremony at Terrace Green Seaham. Seaham veteran Derek Bland

“It’s a momentous day.

“I was very moved by the letter, which was written with such dignity.”

As part of the ceremony, the town council handed over the ashes of the burnt poppy crosses from last year’s Poppy Appeal Event - The Line of Reconciliation - which saw dozens of wooden crosses, bearing messages, planted in the ground.

The ashes will be take to Somme Anniversary events in France and scattered on the graves of the Seaham soldiers.