Plans have been drawn up for a permanent memorial in the city to those who lost their lives at the Battle of the Somme during the First World War – the worst day of combat in British military history.
The memorial would be situated in Heaton Park – one of the largest municipal parks in Europe, and used during the First World War as a military training ground for army recruits, including the men of the Manchester Regiment before they went off to fight at the Somme, and later also as a military hospital.
The planned memorial would acknowledge both the park’s First World War history, and its role one hundred years later as the focal point of the national Somme centenary commemoration.
The unique curved memorial will feature more than 320 ‘memory tiles’ created for the national commemoration, recast in porcelain. It is hoped the memorial will be in place by November this year.
The Battle of the Somme was to last for five months but it was the first day of battle on 1 July 1916 that quickly became the worst in British history, resulting in the largest losses by the British army in one day. British casualties numbered 57,470 on that first day of fighting, and of these casualties 19,240 were killed.
One hundred years later Manchester was honoured to be invited to host the national commemorations to mark the centenary of the fateful battle.
National centenary commemoration events held in July 2016 included a service of commemoration at Manchester Cathedral, and a military parade through the city, as well as a moving and memorable cultural event in Heaton Park that charted the battle and first day of combat, and took place alongside a tented encampment in the park offering heritage learning activities.
More than 37,000 people visited Heaton Park over the centenary weekend to take part in events and pay their own respects to those who died.
At the heart of the national commemoration was a call-out to adults and children across the UK to make and contribute a ‘memory tile’ as a tribute to someone involved in or affected by the Battle of the Somme.
The call-out saw thousands of personal images and accompanying stories of the men and women who played their part in the battle submitted, and 5,000 of these were made into tiles and laid down in Heaton Park to form a 100 metre long temporary path through the park, the ‘Path of the Remembered’.
Following the commemoration events some of the original tiles were given to different organisations for display – including a veteran’s village in Newton Heath, Manchester Cathedral, Manchester Art Gallery, and the Manchester Tramway Museum.
Now it is planned that some of those same memory tile designs submitted by members of the public for the Path of the Remembered will be re-used as part of the permanent memorial in Heaton Park.