Her Majesty The Queen attends Abbey Somme Service

Thursday, 30th June 2016

Her Majesty The Queen attends Abbey Somme Service

Her Majesty The Queen and His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh attended a Service and Vigil on the Eve of the Centenary of the Battle of the Somme at Westminster Abbey on Thursday 30th June 2016.

The service was also attended by the Prime Minister, the Right Honourable David Cameron MP, and Mrs Cameron.

The service was conducted by the Very Reverend Dr John Hall, Dean of Westminster, who said in his Bidding:

The Battle of the Somme was an offensive by the British and French against the forces of Germany. The battle lasted almost five months. No more than six miles of German-held territory were regained. On all sides there were a million casualties, killed or wounded.
This evening, we seek to recall the experience of those waiting to go into battle. This whole night will be a time of vigil; a watch will be maintained at the Grave of the Unknown Warrior, changing every quarter of an hour, and representing all the forces involved in the Battle. The watch will conclude at 7.30 am when, a hundred years ago, whistles were blown to signal the moment of advance.
Tonight we shall remember the courage and the sacrifice of those preparing to face their enemy, and we shall pray that we may continue to learn the lessons of history to build a world at peace.

Luke Thompson, actor, read A Trench Narrative written by Second Lieutenant Jocelyn Buxton (1896-1916), 6th Battalion, The Rifle Brigade, who was killed in action on the first day of the Somme.

Brigadier Timothy Hodgetts CBE, Medical Director, Defence Medical Services, read Romans 8: 35-39.

The Address was given by the Right Reverend and Right Honourable Dr Richard Chartres KCVO, Bishop of London and Dean of Her Majesty's Chapels Royal.

The Choir of Westminster Abbey, conducted by the Organist and Master of the Choristers, James O'Donnell, sang the anthem Watch With Me by Judith Bingham, commissioned for this service by the Dean and Chapter of Westminster through the generosity of the Department of Culture, Media & Sport.

Prayers were led by the Reverend Christopher Stoltz, Minor Canon and Precentor, and said by the Reverend Professor Vernon White, Canon in Residence, and the Prime Minister.

Her Majesty The Queen placed a wreath at the Grave of the Unknown Warrior.

Lance Sergeant Stuart Laing, 1st Battalion, The Welsh Guards, played Last Post on a bugle issued to the Welsh Guards in 1915 and used at the Battle of the Somme.

The service was sung by the Choir of Westminster Abbey conducted by James O'Donnell. The organ was played by Daniel Cook, Sub Organist, and before the service by Matthew Jorysz, Assistant Organist.

The Abbey remained open through the night for a Vigil to mark the centenary of the Battle of Somme and a Watch at the Grave of the Unknown Warrior changed every 15 minutes.

Order of Service - A Service and Vigil on the Eve of the Centenary of the Battle of the Somme, 30th June 2016 (PDF, 713KB)

The Address by The Right Reverend and Right Honourable Dr Richard Chartres KCVO, Bishop of London and Dean of Her Majesty's Chapels Royal (PDF, 308KB)

Historical Note

On 1st July 1916, the British and French armies launched an offensive near the River Somme, in Picardy, France. This series of battles, lasting nearly five months, would become one of the bloodiest and most important campaigns of the First World War. In the early hours soldiers moved into forward trenches and advanced into no-man's land, preparing for 'zero-hour' at 7.30 am. As the bombardment lifted, the first wave of Allied troops attacked along a 40 kilometre front. In the south, the French made good progress and British units took Mametz and Montauban, but in the north — at Gommecourt, Serre, Beaumont-Hamel, Thiepval, Ovillers, and La Boisselle — the British Army suffered terrible losses for little gain. On that first day 19,240 British soldiers were killed, the French had 1,590 casualties and the German 2nd Army lost between 10,000–12,000 men.