A very affecting commemoration

1 Jul



There was a very affecting piece of commemorative theatre at Manchester Piccadilly station today to commemorate the centenary the first day of the Battle of the Somme (1 July 1916). A group of sallow-faced, subdued and somewhat scruffy young men were dressed as WWI soldiers. They were unarmed and silent. They simply stood around, disconnected from the hurly burly of a busy train station on a Friday afternoon. They did not interact with the ‘audience’, instead they had a ghostly presence (accentuated by make-up to make them pale), as others ran for trains clutching coffee or barking into their phones.

I went to speak with one to ask him what he was doing he looked at me silently and sullenly and handed me a card (pictured above). Presumably Private Makin (from a local Manchester regiment) had left from or traveled through Manchester Piccadilly station before being killed on the Somme.

On the first day of the battle, some 19,000 British soldiers were killed – along with large numbers of French and Germans. To put that into perspective, the British Army today has just under 90,000 regular soldiers.

The station theatre was in marked contrast to the stiff formalism of a lot of commemorative activity. It was impossible to see these young men and not think of another group of young men 100 years ago. Indeed the youth of the participants was striking – all in their late teens and early twenties. And their sullen disposition seemed to say: “I was robbed. I was killed but you are lucky. You are alive.” Whoever put this together deserves praise.


One Response to “A very affecting commemoration”

  1. Kris 03/07/2016 at 7:20 pm #

    More info for those interested. A nationwide co-ordinated event.


    As you say, all the more affecting because of its simplicity.

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