A memorial to honour soldiers who lost their lives during the Battle of the Somme in the First World War has been unveiled at Heaton Park.
Built by Seddon, the curved wall includes the inscription ‘Somme 1916’, and standing at two metres high, it is the same height as a Western Front communications front line trench stacked with sandbags would have been.
The design also features more than 320 ‘memory tiles’, each one originally submitted by members of the public for the national commemoration in 2016, and now recast in porcelain to take pride of place on one side of the wall.
Heaton Park is a fitting site for this Manchester memorial, having played a key role in the war effort as a training ground for Army recruits, the Royal Air Force and the Manchester Regiment – including those who went off to fight at the Somme – and later as a military hospital.
The Battle of the Somme was to last for five months, but it was the first day of battle on 1 July 1916 that was to prove the most fateful. It quickly became the worst day in British military history and resulted in the largest losses suffered by the British army in any one day. By the end of that first day British casualties numbered 57,470 and of these 19,240 were killed.
One hundred years later, in 2016, more than 37,000 people visited the park over the centenary weekend to take part in events and pay their own respects to those who died and take part in a moving remembrance event.
And at the heart of this national centenary commemoration of the Somme was a call-out to adults and children across the UK to make or contribute a digital ‘memory tile’ as a tribute to someone involved in 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. Around 5,000 of these were made into tiles and laid down in Heaton Park to form a temporary path through the park, the ‘Path of the Remembered’.
Now, this year, some of those same memory tile designs submitted by members of the public have been re-used as part of the permanent memorial in Heaton Park.
Cllr Luthfur Rahman, executive member for Schools, Culture and Leisure at Manchester City Council, said: “No-one could fail to have been moved by the events two years ago to commemorate the centenary of the Battle of the Somme, and particularly by the memory tiles that poignantly told the stories behind some of those involved in the battle.
“It’s important we remember the sacrifices made by all those who fought and were injured or lost their lives, and that we pass their stories on to future generations so they also never forget.
“The permanent memorial in Heaton Park is a fitting and lasting tribute to them and will ensure their stories and our memory of them are never forgotten.”
Peter Jackson, managing director of Seddon, said: “It is so important we create talking points and memorials in frequented places to make sure that future generations never forget the incredible sacrifice those before them made.
“In helping to create this tribute it has really brought home to us again, that these were ordinary people, just like you and me, doing regular jobs before they were asked to go to war and sadly never return home.
“It is an honour for Seddon to have played a role in the creation of this uniquely designed tribute. We hope that those who visit the memorial will find it fitting, thought provoking and poignant.”