A stunning cultural event to commemorate the men of the Manchester Regiment who fought at the Battle of Manchester Hill takes place tonight Friday 13 April at Manchester Cathedral, opening a weekend of events to mark the centenary of the battle.
The event mixes spoken word and poetry with new music especially composed for the event, and new arrangements of old music – including music and song that would have been performed one hundred years ago by the men of the Manchester Regiment.
The whole performance is set against an amazing backdrop of lights and poignant visuals created for the event, blending images from the Front Line and regiment a century ago, with other newer images from events held in March this year in France to mark this important centenary.
The battle took place on 21 March 1918 just outside Saint-Quentin in northern France on the first day of the German Spring Offensive – a day that was to become the second worst day in British military history with 8,000 men killed along the Front.
Their defence of Manchester Hill all but wiped out the 16th Battalion of the Manchester Regiment.
Of the 168 men who fought in the battle, 79 men were killed, only 17 returned to British lines, and the rest were either wounded or taken prisoners of war.
Joanne Roney OBE, Chief Executive of Manchester City Council, said: “It’s our duty to remember all those who fought in the First World War, and particularly the men of our own Manchester Regiment.
“We must do all we can to ensure their actions and the sacrifices they made one hundred years ago do not go forgotten, and that they are remembered both today and also in the future.”
Full rundown of events taking place this weekend Friday 13 – Sunday 15 April:
‘Manchester Hill Remembered’
Friday 13 April, 8 pm – 9:30 pm Manchester Cathedral.
A multi media cultural event to commemorate those who lost their lives in the battle. The performance is made up of music, spoken word and visuals. It features prominent musicians including Stuart McCallum, John Ellis, Luke Flowers, and Liam Frost, who have worked in collaboration with 13 upcoming young musicians to produce new music for the event. Other music artists involved include the King’s Division Brass Band, Northern Voices a capella choir, and singer-songwriter Seaming To. The event also features spoken word artists Young Identity and poet Michael Symmons Roberts, and is performed against a stunning visual backdrop produced by Rebecca Smith of Urban Projections.
Cenotaph wreath-laying ceremony and silence
Sunday 15 April, 1 pm, Cenotaph, St Peter’s Square, Manchester
Members of the public are invited to join civic, regimental and religious leaders to pay their own respects to those who died at the Battle of Manchester Hill at the short ceremony. The Colours of the 2nd Battalion of the Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment will be on display during the service. The will be led by the Right Reverend David Walker, Bishop of Manchester, with the Reverend Andrew J Earl CF, Senior Chaplain HQ NW and Chaplain of the 2nd Battalion of the Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment.
It will include a two minute silence – the start of which will be signalled by a lone buglar playing Last Post and the end of which will be marked by the playing of Reveille – and prayers to remember the men of the 16th Battalion Manchester Regiment. The Band of the King’s Division will also play during the ceremony.
Wreaths will be laid on the Cenotaph during the service, and it will be followed with a March Past by members of the Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment.
Sunday 15 April 1:30 – 2:00 pm (approx.) Manchester city centre
Following the Cenotaph service the 2nd Battalion of the Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment will exercise the Regiment’s Freedom of the city by parading from the Cenotaph on St Peter’s Square to Manchester Cathedral via Peter Street and Deansgate.
Numbers on the march – around 70 soldiers from the Regiment accompanied by around 30 members of the King’s Division Brass Band.
A city’s Freedom is the highest honour it can bestow and grants the right, privilege, honour and distinction of marching through the streets with Colours flying, bayonets fixed, drums beating, and bands playing.
Sunday 15 April 2 pm Manchester Cathedral
A century ago on 15 April 1918 Manchester Cathedral was the setting for a memorial service to mourn the loss of life at Manchester Hill and to pay tribute to and honour the men killed there.
Exactly one hundred years later, a special service of remembrance will once again be held at the Cathedral to pay tribute to the 79 men killed in one day of fighting in the battle.
Descendants of those who fought in the Battle of Manchester Hill, will join military and civic guests for a service to be conducted by the Very Reverend Rogers Govender, Dean of Manchester.
The service is also open to members of the public.
The poignant service will include moving readings of letters sent to family back home from the battlefields, a reading of war poet and Manchester Regiment soldier Wilfred Owen’s famous poem, ‘Commemoration – Spring Offensive’, a buglar playing Last Post, a two minute silence, followed by the playing of Reveille.
Battle of Manchester Hill Exhibition
Normal Library opening hours. April – June. Manchester Central Library
A special exhibition telling the story behind the Battle of Manchester Hill. As well as archive photographs, the exhibition also features creative writing based on their learning about the battle by Manchester primary school children.