Special events will honour centenary of the Somme.
Byline: Emily Beament firstname.lastname@example.org
A BALLOT has opened for members of the public to attend the centenary commemoration of the Battle of the Somme in France next year.
Some 8,000 free tickets will be allocated, in pairs, for the event which is taking place on July 1, 2016, at Thiepval, in northern France, where the memorial stands to more than 72,000 men who died in the Somme and have no known grave.
But that is only a portion of the total number of dead. The battle claimed more than a million casualties on both sides by the time it ended on November 18, 1916.
More than 350,000 British troops were killed or injured, including almost 60,000 on the first day alone - the worst day for casualties in the nation's military history.
The figure included around 600 from the 1/8th Battalion of the Royal Warwickshire Regiment, who died in the initial encounters with the German lines. Many of the regiment came from Aston, men like Second Lieutenant Francis Freeman and Privates William Green and Arthur Maskell.
Beginning on July 1, 1916, and intended to achieve a decisive victory for the British and French, the battle became a bloody stalemate on battlegrounds that turned into a muddy quagmire The ballot for the commemorative event, which will also be televised on public screens across the UK, will remain open until November 18, 2015.
Other events will be conducted in France, including a vigil at Thiepval, on June 30 next year; a small event every day from July 2 to November 18 to mark the 141 days of the battle; and a closing event on November 18, 2016.
Prime Minister David Cameron said: "The First World War, with that mixture of horror and courage, suffering and hope, has become a fundamental part of our national consciousness.
"Perhaps nothing brings home the sheer scale of the sacrifice and loss more starkly than the Somme."
Culture secretary John Whittingdale said: "The events at the Battle of the Somme left a deep mark on the nation - almost everyone in the UK will have an ancestor who fought or died at the Somme."
For information about the ballot, visit the website at http://somme2016.org/.
A British Grenadier Guardsman keeps watch as his comrades sleep in |a captured German trench near Albert during the Battle of the Somme