Poignant tributes to fallen of the Somme

Veterans in the grounds of Belfast City Hall during the commemoration
Veterans in the grounds of Belfast City Hall during the commemoration

The thousands of Ulster and Irish Division soldiers who fell at the Somme were commemorated in Belfast on Saturday – 101 years after one of the bloodiest battles of the Great War.

Among those laying wreaths at the cenotaph were Secretary of State James Brokenshire, senior officers from the Royal Navy, Army and Royal Air Force and a DUP delegation led by deputy leader Nigel Dodds.

Secretary of State James Brokenshire at the commemoration with Belfast Lord Mayor Nuala McAllister

Secretary of State James Brokenshire at the commemoration with Belfast Lord Mayor Nuala McAllister

By the time the 36th (Ulster) Division was relieved on July 2, 1916 it had suffered more than 5,000 casualties – more than 2,000 of whom were killed.

Of the nine Victoria Crosses awarded to British and Commonwealth troops for gallantry on the first day of the battle (July 1), three went to the Ulster Division. Two of the VCs were awarded posthumously.

Belfast’s Lord Mayor Nuala McAllister led the ceremony along with Mr Brokenshire and Irish Minister of State for European Affairs Helen McEntee TD.

The Somme anniversary was also marked with other events across Northern Ireland – including a service at Coleraine centoaph.

The DUP delegation was led by deputy leader Nigel Dodds (centre)

The DUP delegation was led by deputy leader Nigel Dodds (centre)

In east Belfast, Ballymacarrett District LOL No 6 held its annual Somme commemoration parade on Saturday night – an event held every year since the first anniversary of the battle in July 1917. The parade involved 35 bands and more than 40 lodges.

The annual Battle of the Somme parade in east Belfast on Saturday evening

The annual Battle of the Somme parade in east Belfast on Saturday evening