Service at Manchester Cathedral for Battler of Somme

Duke of York greets ceremonial officers Credit: ITV

The Duke of York, representing the Queen, and Chancellor George Osborne, were among the 1,000 guests including military representatives, UK ambassadors and high commissioners representing the combatant nations for a moving commemoration service at Manchester Cathedral.

All stood as the fanfare sounded to begin the service with the processional hymn.

The Very Reverend Rogers Govender, Dean of Manchester, began the service, telling the congregation:

Like so many towns and cities throughout our land and much further afield, Manchester made a pledge never to forget the myriad number of people who responded to the battle call, with a spirit of generosity and sacrifice that empowers and inspires us still to this present day. As we gather here in this place of prayer and reconciliation, we stand together, united in our shared commemoration of all those who were caught up in the tragic events of the battle, which saw death and suffering on an unprecedented scale: those who were killed in action, or by disease, those who returned and whose lives were changed for ever, the bereaved, the lost, the families of those whose fate was never known, the wounded, maimed and injured and those who held in silence unspeakable memories of warfare.

The Very Reverend Rogers Govender, Dean of Manchester

The first lesson was read by Mr Richard Hughes, from the Western Front Association, a reading from the the Book of Ecclesiastes.

The commemoration was read by Nadia Emam, from an unknown diary entry entitled Goodbye To Manchester, about a tearful scene as mothers, wives and children waved off the troops from a train station as they headed off to war:

Drowned in a wave of cheers and the lads craning from the carriages shout and wave their hands ... and the train disappears. Another thousand gone.

Nadia Emam

Another reading entitled Before The Somme: A Son Writes Home, was given by Jack Benjamin, beginning: "My Dearest Mother and Dad." It was written by 2nd Lieutenant John Sherwin Engall, of the 16th London Regiment, on June 30th, 1916.The following day he was killed, aged 20, on the first day of the battle.

Lt Engall says in the letter:

I intend to do my bit in the cause of civilisation. I have a strong feeling that I shall come through safely but nevertheless, should it be God's holy will to call me away, I am quite prepared to go.

Jack Benjamin

A short passage was read by Liam Evans-Ford, by William Orpen, a war artist, written in 1921 after returning to the battlefield, entitled The Somme Transformed.

It read:

I had left it mud, nothing but water, shell-holes and mud - the most gloomy dreary abomination of desolation the mind could imagine; and now, in the summer of 1917, no words could express the beauty of it. The dreary, dismal mud was baked white and pure - dazzling white. White daisies, red poppies and a blue flower, great masses of them, stretched for miles and miles. The sky a pure dark blue, and the whole air, up to a height of about forty feet, thick with white butterflies: your clothes were covered with butterflies. It was like an enchanted land: but in the place of fairies there were thousands of little white crosses, marked 'Unknown British Soldier', for the most part.

Liam Evans-Ford

The Second Lesson was read by the Duke of York, from the Holy Gospel according to St Matthew before the Act of Remembrance, led by the Right Reverend James Newcombe, National Chaplain to The Royal British Legion.

He said:

We recall with thanksgiving the loyalty shown to comrades, and the bravery of those who overcame their fear, the courage of those who daily faced the pounding of artillery, gunfire and shrapnel. They shall grow not old as we that are left grow old; age shall not weary them nor the years condemn. At the going down of the sun and in the morning we will remember them.

Duke of York

The Last Post rang out in silence, before Flowers of the Forest was played by a lone piper, a moment of silence was held then broken as the Reveille played.