For the past few weeks, the British public has been focused on its uncertain future outside the European Union. But today, thoughts turned to the past. The country paused to remember the bloodiest battle in British military history, the Battle of the Somme, which began 100 years ago on July 1, 1916.
The bloody World War I battle, fought by British and French soldiers against Germany along the river Somme in France, killed 19,240 soldiers on the first day alone. It lasted until Nov. 18, 1916 and left more than a million soldiers injured or dead. When it ended, British and French soldiers had advanced just six miles into Germany territory.
In memory of the deaths, actors this year dressed as soldiers and slowly walked through railway stations and city centers. They handed out cards bearing the names of those who died in the battle, and occasionally sang, ‘We’re here because we’re here.’ The melancholy one-line song, repeated to the tune of Auld Lang Syne, had been sung by soldiers trapped in the trenches.
Commuters were moved to tears by the sight of the young soldiers, sharing photos with the hashtag #wearehere. There were reports of the soldiers in cities across the UK, including London, Bristol, Swansea, Newcastle, Salisbury, Manchester, Sunderland, and Aberdeen.