Do you remember all the media coverage surrounding the 100th anniversary of the first day of The Battle of the Somme?
Think about how long ago the beginning of July seems now. Well, a hundred years ago that battle was still being fought. It ended on 19 November 1916.
At this time of remembrance, why not spend a while in the museum exploring our special exhibition and watch the film made at the time about the battle…
‘Somme. The Other Side of No-Man’s Land’ takes over the museum’s entire ground floor gallery and explores the fate of the thousands of Yorkshire-men involved in the battle.
Using photographs, letters and personal items the exhibition examines how their experiences compared with their German counterparts.
It also tells the stories of four of the regiment’s men whose actions earned them Victoria Crosses in 1916, including Second Lieutenant Donald Bell, the first professional footballer to volunteer for service, and Major Stewart Loudoun-Shand who was awarded the VC for his actions on the very first day of the battle.
The museum is part of the Imperial War Museums (IWM) First World War Centenary Partnership who are working together to show the UNESCO listed film The Battle of the Somme.
Shot and screened in 1916, it was the first feature length documentary about war and changed the way both cinema and film was perceived by the public.
One hundred years later, this unique film from IWM’s collection, is being shown free of charge on a continuous loop in the museum entrance during the exhibition to commemorate the anniversary. A shorter version is also being screened within The Other Side of No-Man’s Land exhibition area.
In the year of its release, around 20 million people, almost half the population of Britain at the time, watched The Battle of the Somme – many hoping to see an image of a loved-one or friend captured on film.
“The Battle of the Somme is infamous,” says Museum Director, Lynda Powell.
“On the first day of the battle, 1 July 1916, nearly 60,000 British men, all volunteers, were killed, wounded or listed as missing.
But it’s so much more than just that first day. The battle ended on 19 November 1916; by then there had been more than a million casualties.
It’s difficult for us to understand those numbers, but through our exhibition we hope visitors will really be able to get a feel for the personal stories of some of the men involved, within the context of the events which unfolded a hundred years ago.”
A whistle was blown three times at 07:30hours to signal the order to go ‘over the top’ on 1 July. A trench whistle features in the exhibition.
Perhaps the story of one local boy is particularly poignant.
Charles Percy Tempest was born at Sleegill, Richmond in 1900. He was the son of Thomas, a local papermaker, and Emily Tempest. The 1911 Census has him recorded as attending school in Richmond. Charles enlisted on 22nd August 1915 in Richmond; signing up for seven years’ service.
Private Charles Tempest (23433) of the 2nd Battalion The Yorkshire Regiment was killed on the first day of the Battle of the Somme, 1 July 1916, aged 16.
The 2nd Battalion were involved in the assault on the Somme village of Montauban, losing almost 200 men in the initial attack.
Originally buried at Vernon Street Cemetery in Carnoy, Charles Tempest was later reburied at Dantzig Alley British Cemetery, Mametz following further hostilities.
A fabric poppy laid at the new cenotaph in London at the first Remembrance Day ceremony in 1921 is in the museum’s First World War gallery.
The regimental war memorial, which stands at the top of Frenchgate on the way into Richmond, and was dedicated in 1921, has been Grade 2 Listed as part of the First World War centenary commemorations.
It is one of 15 nationally, and six in Yorkshire to have been newly Listed or upgraded by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, on the advice of Historic England.
The Remembrance Day service in Richmond takes place in Friary Gardens on Sunday 13 November.