Council delegation visits France and Belgium for Battle of the Somme commemorations

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Deputy Lord Mayor Councillor Kyle Savage led a council delegation on a four-day visit to France and Belgium to mark the 108th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme (1 July 1916) and commemorate those killed in action during one of the largest and bloodiest battles of the First World War.

Joining him to pay homage to the valour of the brave soldiers who sacrificed their lives during the Battle of the Somme were Councillor Julie Flaherty, Councillor Kyle Moutray, Councillor Joy Ferguson and Alderman Stephen Moutray.

During the visit, the delegation attended remembrance services and toured historical sites and landmarks in the region, including battlefields, museums, cemeteries as well as monuments dedicated to the fallen.

Upon his return, Deputy Lord Mayor Kyle Savage said: “It was a huge privilege to represent the borough in marking this significant occasion in our history. This commemorative visit really brought the grim realities of war, especially the pain, suffering and human sacrifice, into sharp focus. It’s important to pay tribute to the courage and bravery of these soldiers who fought and died for the freedoms we enjoy today. Both we and future generations must never forget their service.”

On Saturday 29 June after arriving in France, the delegation visited the Sir John Monash Centre – a museum which tells Australia’s story of those who served on the Western Front during the First World War.

On Sunday 30 June, they visited the site of the Battle of the Vimy Ridge followed by Ancre British Cemetery, which commemorates British and Commonwealth soldiers who fought in the Battle of the Somme during the First World War. The cemetery contains mainly those who died on 1 July 1916 during the first Allied attack on the village of Beaumont-Hamel.

They then travelled on to Beaumont-Hamel to see the Newfoundland Memorial – a preserved battlefield park which represents an important symbol of remembrance and a lasting tribute to all Newfoundlanders who served during the First World War.

This was followed by a visit to the Somme Museum in the town of Albert, which traces the lives of soldiers in the trenches.

Their onward journey that day took them to Ypres, a town in the province of West Flanders, Belgium where they attended the Last Post ceremony at the Menin Gate Memorial and laid wreaths on behalf of the council to remember the missing British and Commonwealth soldiers killed in the battlefields in that area and whose graves are also unknown.

On Monday 1 July, the day began with the delegation attending a Royal British Legion remembrance service and laying wreaths at Thiepval Memorial to the Missing in Authuille.

Later that day, they attended two Somme Association remembrance services at the Ulster Tower Memorial near Thiepval and the 16th (Irish) Division Memorial in Guillemont.

The 36th (Ulster) Division Tower is NI’s National War Memorial, built to commemorate the fallen of 36th Ulster Division and any other Ulstermen who served in the First World War.

The Ulster Division suffered huge losses at the Somme on 1 July 1916, with over 5,000 casualties and at least 2,000 men dead on that first day of attack alone.

The delegation visited Pozieres Cemetery later that day before returning home the next day.