Sheffield paid tribute to the fallen heroes who sacrificed their lives at the Somme 100 years ago.
Hundreds gathered in the summer sunshine to pay their respect to the brave Sheffield lads who were butchered in one of Britain’s worst military disasters 100 years ago.
People watching the moving service at Weston Park wiped away tears as they remembered the hundreds of young men who went off to war, never to return to Sheffield.
Many of those at the memorial service were the sons and daughters, now aged in their 70s and 80s, of men who lost their lives.
Around 500 members of the Sheffield City Battalion – the Sheffield Pals – were casualties on the first day of battle. Around 5,000 men from the city died during World War One.
Lord Mayor Coun Denise Fox paid tribute to those who died before a moving rendition of The Last Post.
Dignitaries laid wreathes at a plaque after prayers and a two-minute silence.
Poems were read including the famous World War One piece ‘The Front’ by Siegfried Sassoon which encapsulated the sheer horror on the day 100 years ago.
Sheffield Council has given Weston Park centenary field status as a tribute to commemorate the huge sacrifice.
Pals battalions began to be formed in August 1914. They were usually recruited from a local area and were nicknamed because Lord Kitchener believed more men would enlist if they could serve alongside their friends, relatives or workmates.
Sheffield Pals comprised mainly businessmen, clerics, journalists, schoolteachers and students from across the city.
Sheila Gascoigne, aged 75, of Ecclesall, attended the service to remember her father, Private Oliver Slack who was aged 20 when he was wounded on the first day of the Somme. He was lucky to come home alive.
“He was shot in the chest by the Germans after going over the top and realised he couldn’t go on. He’d only been in France a week,” said Sheila.
“He managed to get back to the trenches and he was taken to hospital where he was put in a section of the ward where they thought the injured soldiers wouldn’t make it.
“But next day, he was still alive and they started to treat him. He was then sent back to England and spent a couple of years in hospital but managed to recover.
“I’ve come to remember him and others who weren’t so lucky. It was a lovely service, it was very moving.”
Brenda Sunderland’s father fought on the Somme and was injured by shrapnel in No Man’s Land.
The 83-year-old, from Gleadless, came to pay her respects.
“My father tried twice to sign up before he was 18 and they didn’t let him the first time.
“He was a runner in the trenches passing messages to the senior figures. They gave him that job because he was a small man, he was only 5ft 2ins.
“He got injured going over the top and I can always remember as a girl the hole in his back where the shrapnel got him.
“Coming to things like this makes you thank God I don’t have to send my children and grandchildren off to fight in wars.”
Herbert Hallows, 77, of Wincobank, served in the Green Howards and was based in Germany during his military career.
He said: “The service was very moving, it was very well organised and everyone who took part should be very proud.
“It’s shocking to know that some of these lads at the Somme were only 17 or 18. They were just boys who should have had their lives in front of them.”
Ray Cundy, from Watherthorpe, a member of the British Legion, said: “I think it’s great we’ve got so many schoolchildren here today.
“It’s vital they hear the stories of the Somme and the world wars in general.
“We must never forget these brave young lads.”