Over the next 6 years a number of events, at both local and national level, are being planned to commemorate the centenaries of the First World War.
The Somme Association will play a leading role in many of these occasions both here at home and further afield. It is important that the memory of all the men and women who were part of our contribution to the war effort in the early part of the twentieth century is honoured in an appropriate and dignified way. We need your support to ensure a fitting tribute is paid to their gallantry and sacrifice.
Fifty thousand men from all parts of Ireland died during the First World War. Thousands more of Irish descent in the old Empire countries and the United States of America served and fell in this titanic struggle. Throughout Ireland, North and South, barely a household remained unaffected.
The 10th (Irish) Division was the first Division to be raised in Ireland in 1914 as part of Lord Kitchener’s ‘New Army’. Their initial combat was during the landings at Suvla Bay in the Dardanelles (August 1915). After the evacuation from the Gallipoli Peninsula, the Division saw further action in the Balkans and in Palestine.
The 10th (Irish) Division was quickly followed by the raising of the 16th (Irish) Division, comprising mainly of Roman Catholics from throughout Ireland who had served with the Irish National Volunteers, and the 36th (Ulster) Division, raised mainly from the staunchly Protestant and Unionist Ulster Volunteers and determined to maintain Ireland in the United Kingdom. During the Summer of 1916, these two volunteer Divisions saw action in the trenches of Northern France for the first time. The engagement was the Battle of the Somme, a campaign destined to go down in history as one of the bloodiest battles ever fought.
The 36th (Ulster) Division lost five and a half thousand men in the first two days of July whilst capturing the supposedly impregnable Schwaben Redoubt at Thiepval.
In September, the 16th (Irish) Division was allotted the task of capturing the villages of Guillemont and Ginchy. By the ninth day of September, four thousand were lost.
From 1917 onwards, these two Divisions, comprising of Irishmen who, three years earlier, were preparing to fight each other, joined together to become one of the most famous fighting units Ireland has ever produced.
The Somme Association is a registered charity established under Royal Patronage. It was formed in 1990 with the aim of co-ordinating research into Ireland’s part in the First World War thereby providing a basis for the two traditions in Northern Ireland to come together to learn of their common heritage. Today it plays a significant role in educating the public and commemorating, on a cross-community basis, the role played by Irishmen in the First World War.
The Somme Museum, a fully accredited, independent museum, opened in 1994, primarily as an educational facility to examine Ireland’s role in the First World War, with special reference to local cross-community involvement in the three volunteer Divisions raised in Ireland: the 10th and 16th (Irish) Divisions, and the 36th (Ulster) Division. Since 2000, the Museum has expanded into the Second World War and other modern international conflicts.
The Museum is a unique visitor attraction of international significance showing the awful reality of the Great War and its effects on the community at home.
The Museum has increasingly focused on the community relations potential of our shared history as a vehicle to further cross-community understanding and reconciliation.
The Museum has an extensive collection of material from the Great War period much of which is unique to us and more recently has begun to acquire a growing collection from World War Two and later conflicts.
The Somme Association is seeking your support so that we have sufficient resources over the next six years as we ensure that the valiant effort of our forefathers to secure world peace during the First World War will not be forgotten. It is important that their sacrifice is not forgotten and that we show our gratitude for their heroism and resilience against an enemy determined to totally destroy them. Please be part of these acts of commemoration by making a donation to:
The Somme Association Centenary Appeal
The Somme Association
233 Bangor Road
Many of you will be visiting the Somme Museum and the First World War Centenary events over the next five years. Your contribution will ensure that we are able to make a fitting tribute to the thousands of men who fought and to those who died in the battlefields of France and Belgium.
You can also make a donation via the easyfundraising website.