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Commemorating the Somme

  • Council and democracy

Barnet has marked the 100th anniversary of the end of the Battle of the Somme with a service at the RAF Museum, Hendon.

The museum’s First World War exhibition provided a poignant backdrop to the service of commemoration which took place at 11am on Sunday 6 November.

A whistle blast marked the start of the service, symbolising the trench whistles used to coordinate an advance.

During the ceremony, a rolling display highlighted the sacrifice made by so many, with the names of 419 local men who are known to have been killed in one of the bloodiest battles of the First World War.

A wreath of poppies and cornflowers, synonymous with the battlefields, was also laid during the service.

The battle, which began in July 1916, lasted for five months and left more than one million men killed or wounded. In total 350,000 British lives were lost, with almost 60,000 British casualties on the first day of fighting alone.

Newspaper cuttings from the time included in the rolling display provided a glimpse into the backgrounds of some of the local men killed in the battle.

Among them was Corporal J F Daly from North Finchley. Having enlisted in 1914, Cpl Daly was serving with the 10th Essex Regiment when he was killed on 20 July. Before volunteering he had worked for the Express Dairy Company and had only been married for 16 months when he was killed.

Another, Private Frank Herbert Collins,  of Trinity Road, East Finchley, lost his life when a ‘whizz bang’ burst close to his position, killing him instantaneously, and also killing a number of his comrades.

He had been at the front for three months with the East Surrey Regiment when he died. Having been educated at Long Lane School, he went on to become a telegraph boy at the Church End Post Office and then worked for the North Middlesex Gas Company. He left behind a wife and two children. He was 26 years old when he died.

Among those to attend the service was the Worshipful the Mayor of Barnet, Councillor David Longstaff, Barnet’s Representative Deputy Lieutenant Martin Russell, representatives of the Reserve forces, cadets and veteran’s associations.

At the ceremony the Mayor of Barnet was presented with a copy of the book ‘Stepping Forward’ which pays tribute to the history of reserve units in London. Copies will also go to each of the borough’s libraries.

The Mayor of Barnet said: “Sunday’s service provided a very moving tribute to those who lost their lives during the 141 days of the battle. Among the many thousands who died were hundreds of men from what is now the London Borough of Barnet.

“One century on, the commemoration starkly brought home the sheer scale of the loss of life.”

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