Bishop of Carlisle to attend Battle of the Somme services

The Bishop of Carlisle, as National Chaplain to the Royal British Legion, is to attend special services marking the 100th anniversary of the start of the Battle of the Somme.

The Rt Rev’d James Newcome will attend a service and overnight vigil at Westminster Abbey tonight (Thursday 30 June) as well as a service of National Commemoration at Manchester city centre’s Cenotaph on Friday afternoon to be followed by a service at Manchester Cathedral at 3pm.

Bishop James, who was appointed RBL National Chaplain in January 2016, said: “It is important that we come together to mark the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of such terrible hostilities.

“In just one day’s battle so many lives were lost - on both sides - and we must never forget the sacrifice that tens of thousands of service personnel offered up so that we would be free to live the lives we do today.

“At this time, as we face a world in which wars continue to be waged and innocent lives are lost as a direct result, we must continue to pray that the reconciling love of God becomes known to all and all people come to know His peace.”

The Battle of the Somme was to last 141 days during which more than one million men were killed or wounded. On the first day of battle 19,240 British soldiers lost their lives – the worst losses ever suffered in one day in the history of the British army.

The Westminster vigil – which will also be televised on BBC2 – will begin with a 30 minute invitation-only service. The Abbey will then be open to the public during the night. Those who took part on all sides of the Battle will be represented with others keeping vigil in 15-minute watches throughout the night. It will conclude with a short public service at 7am on Friday and a gun salute.

Elsewhere across the Diocese of Carlisle – the Church of England in Cumbria - congregations will also mark the 100th anniversary including:

• The Windermere branch of the RBL will hold a vigil at the town’s war memorial from 9pm tonight (Thursday 30 June) with the Rev’d James Richards, Rector of Windermere St Martin leading prayers.

• St Andrew’s Penrith will hold a service – Penrith Remembers Battle of the Somme – at 10am on Friday 1 July. The flower bed at the World War One Memorial in the churchyard has also been planted with later flowering plants by members of Penrith Rotary.

• There will be a short service of commemoration at Holy Trinity Langdale ending with the blowing of the whistle at 7.30am and a time of silence.

• Prayers will be said at Carlisle Cathedral at 12.30pm and 5.30pm on Friday 1 July.

• A short act of remembrance will be held at Keswick War Memorial at 7.15am on Friday 1 July followed by a two minutes' silence and whistle blowing to mark the moment troops went over the top.

• The Rev’d Richard Lee, Team Rector of Egremont and Haile and High Sheriff of Cumbria, will attend events at Carlisle on Friday night to commemorate the anniversary as well as giving a sermon at Evensong at Haile Church on the theme of the Somme.

• A Royal British Legion service will be held at St Anne’s Haverthwaite on Sunday 3 July.

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For further information contact Dave Roberts, Diocesan Communications Manager, on 07469 153658, 01768 807764 or at communications@carlislediocese.org.uk.