TWO ceremonies - one in Bradford and one across the Channel - have taken place to remember the district’s men killed at the Battle of the Somme.

The commemorative events took place on the 104th anniversary of the start of the battle, one of the bloodiest of the First World War, which lasted from July 1 to November 18, 1916.

Last week saw a small private gathering at the Bradford Pals memorial behind the Cenotaph in the city centre, where Lord Mayor of Bradford Cllr Doreen Lee laid a wreath. The annual service paying tribute to the Bradford Pals is normally a public event, but with continuing restrictions due to the coronavirus pandemic it has this year been shared online, on Bradford Council’s social media channels.

Tricia Restorick, president of Bradford World War 1 Group, was at the ceremony: “Chairman Mike Joyce gave a brief, impromptu appreciation of the immense cost of the losses sustained that day and placed a wreath on behalf of the group.

“Jo Buck then read a short poem by Somme survivor Walter Hare. Walter was in his 90s when he joined one of (historian) David Raw’s coach trips to the Somme. David says the poem was written as a thank you for taking Walter back to Serre and Rossignol Wood. ‘Don’t worry. Just put me at the front of the bus with my passport in my hand. I’ll keep very still and quiet,’ said Walter.

“Anyone who has seen Peter Jackson’s film They Shall Not Grow Old you will have heard Walter’s voice; he was recorded by the Imperial War Museum’s sound unit and his authentic Bradford accent adds considerable weight to his strongly expressed descriptions of trench life.”

Also taking place on July 1 was a ceremony in the grounds of a little chapel at Serre Road in northern France, where a Bradford Pals memorial was installed in November, 2016.

Says Tricia: “Jean-Luc Tabary, the Mayor of Hébuterne, placed the wreath at the Pals’ memorial on behalf of the Lord Mayor of Bradford and the WW1 Group. The stone looks very fine now that it’s bedded in. The shrubs have revived and the position could not be more appropriate. It’s difficult to fully express our gratitude to Jean-Luc for offering this site, organising the installation by local builders and for his ongoing care in maintaining the area.”

It was on the Serre salient that an estimated 1,400 Bradford men went ‘over the top’ on July 1, 1916. On that day alone, 1,017 were killed or injured.

In November 2016, on the anniversary of the end of the Battle of the Somme, members of Bradford WW1 Group travelled to France with the then Lord Mayor Cllr Geoff Reid to unveil the memorial dedicated to the Bradford Pals and other men from the district who lost their lives there.

The memorial - a piece of Bradford stone overlooking a war cemetery where local men are buried - was draped in the same Union Jack that flew above Bradford Mechanics Institute when hundreds of men registered to join the Pals shortly after the First World War began.

It was the Honour the Pals appeal, launched by the Telegraph & Argus and Bradford Council in 2014, that raised £5,485, with match funding by the Council, for the memorial. The campaign was backed by Bradford WW1 Group which organised the inscription, transportation and installation of the 1.5 ton stone, donated by Fagley Quarries. The stone bears the same inscription as the Pals memorial in Bradford.

It took two years of emails, ‘phone calls and visits to the mayors of neighbouring towns Hebuterne and Serre-les-Puisieux to get the stone to France. Its unveiling took place on November 19, 2016, at a ceremony attended by French dignitaries, local villagers and ex-servicemen as well as the Bradford contingent.

Addressing the chapel congregation in French, Tricia said: “This memorial is a lasting reminder of the sacrifice of the many young Bradfordians who lost their lives in the Battle of the Somme in 1916. On July 1, 16th and 18th Battalions, West Yorkshire Regiment, known to us as the Bradford Pals, attacked enemy lines in front of Serre, as French troops had in 1915.

“Many of these men, known and unknown, now lie in cemeteries and fields nearby. Over half the men who perished have no known grave. Others returned with life-changing battle scars.

“We’re honoured to lay wreaths in shared remembrance of French and British troops who fought and died here.”

In 1991 Private Walter Hare remembered the Somme in his poignant poem: “And did we waste our time in days gone by, as there we stood knee deep in mud. And was it just a waste of human life, to try to find a way of turning evil into good.

“Oh no, we still must try to find the goal which is the hope of every soul that wars must cease. Then we shall know that love, not hate can rule the day. And we can say goodbye to this fair earth, our time has passed, And we can rest in perfect peace at last.”

l Last week’s memorial ceremony is available to view at