Northern Ireland remembers its Somme dead

The sounding of Last Post by a bugler from 2 Rifles at the Somme Memorial in Thiepval Barracks, Lisburn which took place while an artillery round was fired by 206 (Ulster) Battery Royal Artillery at Hillsborough Castle.
The sounding of Last Post by a bugler from 2 Rifles at the Somme Memorial in Thiepval Barracks, Lisburn which took place while an artillery round was fired by 206 (Ulster) Battery Royal Artillery at Hillsborough Castle.

Civil, religious and military commemorations have been staged across Northern Ireland to mark the centenary of the Battle of the Somme.

Thousands of soldiers from north and south of the Irish border died during the bloody First World War battle which began on July 1 1916 and lasted for 141 days.

One hundred years later communities paused to reflect on the magnitude of the loss.

In Belfast, the city council passed a resolution marking the anniversary, before Lord Mayor Brian Kingston led a wreath-laying ceremony at the Cenotaph.

He was joined by Under Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Ben Wallace and the Irish Minister for Social Protection Leo Varadkar.

Elsewhere, an overnight vigil was held at the Somme Heritage Museum in Co Down.

And, just before 7.30am - the same time as soldiers were ordered out of the trenches and into the line of enemy fire - there was a gun salute by 206 (Ulster Battery Royal Artillery) at Hillsborough Castle, the Queen’s official resident in Northern Ireland.

Soldiers based in the region gathered at Thiepval Barracks in Lisburn, Co Antrim, to take part in an act of remembrance.

Senior Chaplain to 38 (Irish) Brigade Reverend Alex Bennett said the sacrifice, not only across the UK and Commonwealth, but also from those Irish soldiers who gave their lives at the Somme and also in other battles of the First World War should never be forgotten.

A wreath was laid by the Deputy Commander of 38 (Irish) Brigade Colonel Jamie Piggott at the Memorial to the 36th (Ulster) Division at the Lisburn headquarters on behalf of the Armed Forces in Northern Ireland.

The Last Post was sounded by 2 Rifles based in Thiepval Barracks and the lament - Battle of The Somme - was played by Piper Grant Robertson of 1 Scots based at Palace Barracks on the edge of east Belfast.

Meanwhile, in Londonderry, the centenary was marked with a parade, drumhead service and launch of a First World War memorial in the grounds of St Columb’s Cathedral and in Co Fermanagh, a commemoration service was held at Enniskillen Castle.

Later, an ecumenical service of reflection is expected to take place in St Macartin’s Cathedral in the town where a new memorial window in honour of the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers casualties of the war will be dedicated.