Veterans gather in Rock Park to honour the 100th anniversary of the first day of the horrific World War One engagement

Barnstaple today (Friday) marked the centenary of the Battle of the Somme with a memorial service.

It was held at Rock Park war memorial with ex-servicemen, the Royal British Legion and the Mayor of Barnstaple in attendance.

On the morning of July 1 1916, thousands of soldiers were sent over the top in France to begin one of the bloodiest battles in history.

On the first day alone, 19,240 British soldiers were killed including 160 from Devon.

In Barnstaple, the service was organised by The Royal British Legion Riders, a group of motorcyclists who fundraise within the legion.

South West representative Mike O’Meara from Barnstaple told the Gazette: “From what I have been told there was nothing organised for today so I thought we needed to remember the Somme because it was one of the seminal battles of World War One, where so many British solders lost their lives.”

The remembrance service was conducted by Reverend David Fletcher, with readings of letters home from local soldiers who served at the front, as well as the traditional Last Post and minute’s silence.

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