Saturday, July 01, 2006
90 years on
Church bells rang out across the killing fields of the Somme today, 90 years to the minute after thousands of young British soldiers poured out of their trenches to their deaths.
At exactly 7.30am French time, bells echoed across the cornfields between 60 separate villages across the former front line.
Almost 20,000 young British and Empire soldiers were cut down at the Somme on July 1, 1916 alone - a death toll for a single day eclipsing the UK’s losses in the Crimean, Boer and Korean wars combined.
Today, with the sun burning through the morning mist, conditions were almost exactly as they were that morning, when the first of 120,000 British troops moved into “no-man’s land”.
The Prince of Wales, accompanied by the Duchess of Cornwall, joined thousands of Britons on the battlefields of the Somme to honour those who fell on the bloodiest day in the history of the British army.
For both the Prince and the Duchess today’s commemorations were a very personal pilgrimage.
In an address at the monument the Prince told the congregation, many of them veterans of wars or relatives of those who fell, that both he and the Duchess had lost great uncles in the First World War - he one, and Camilla three.