Open air service in Spalding has 7.30am start for Somme centenary

The Vicar of Spalding, the Rev John Bennett, blows a whistle watched by RBL branch vice chairman Frank White beside the war memorial in Ayscoughfee Gardens. SG210616-133TW
The Vicar of Spalding, the Rev John Bennett, blows a whistle watched by RBL branch vice chairman Frank White beside the war memorial in Ayscoughfee Gardens. SG210616-133TW
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An open air service at Spalding’s War Memorial will have a 7.30am start to mark the exact moment the Battle of the Somme began 100 years ago on July 1.

The Vicar of Spalding, the Rev John Bennett, and two leading members of Spalding branch of The Royal British Legion (RBL) hope the public will attend, bringing with them whistles to blow as a reminder of the young men who went “over the top”.

Lance-Corporal Sidney Simson, who was killed in action on July 1, 1916. ANL-160622-114515001

Lance-Corporal Sidney Simson, who was killed in action on July 1, 1916. ANL-160622-114515001

Mr Bennett said: “Nearly 20,000 British soldiers died that day – five of them from Spalding.

“The tactics employed by the British generals relied on overwhelming the German lines by sheer force of numbers. They sent wave after wave of men towards enemy machine guns whilst under attack from high explosive shells. The result was a horror beyond any imagining.

“The ground was littered, as far as the eye could see, with dead and dying and no one who survived the battle was ever the same again.

“We need to remember the courage of those who did what their country asked from them, along with the waste of life and the futility of the orders they were given.”

... the sound of whistles marked the beginning of the last few minutes of their lives.

Records show the Spalding area men who died on that first day were George Seymour, Sidney Barfield, Percy Chamberlain, Herbert Sentance and Sidney Simson.

The Free Press archives contain a story as well as a picture of Lance-Corporal Sentance, who served with the Lincs Regiment.

There’s also a story with a picture of Lance-Corporal Simson, killed in action in “the big push” that day. Lance-Corporal Simson is listed as serving with the York and Lancaster Regiment. A picture of a youthful looking Private Barfield, of The Lincolns, also features in an August issue.

Spalding’s Friday morning service will last for about 20 minutes.

News of the death of Lance-Corporal Herbert Sentance was reported in the pages of The Lincolnshire Free Press. ANL-160622-094151001

News of the death of Lance-Corporal Herbert Sentance was reported in the pages of The Lincolnshire Free Press. ANL-160622-094151001

Frank White, Spalding’s RBL vice chairman, hopes people will make a small sacrifice themselves by getting up early and going to the service before school or work.

Branch Poppy Appeal organiser Peter Lyon says the soldiers on the Somme 100 years ago may have felt not fully awake when the battle started but would have known that the sound of whistles marked the beginning of the last few minutes of their lives.

Peter hopes people can take old style police whistles with them to the service to make it a more authentic sound.

Private Sidney Barfield was one of the young soldiers killed on the first day of The Somme. ANL-160622-175549001

Private Sidney Barfield was one of the young soldiers killed on the first day of The Somme. ANL-160622-175549001