In just the first hour of the Battle of the Somme on July 1st, 1916, approximately 30,000 British soldiers were killed - that’s a similar number to the population of Coleraine.
Now one hundred years on, a committee of volunteers from Ballymoney have prepared a programme of events to reflect upon and mark the centenary of the Battle.
Launched at the headquarters of Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council back in April, The Somme Remembered (1916-2016) is a joint programne run by Ballymoney and District Cultural and Heritage Society, Ballymoney Royal British Legion and the Council.
Among those attending the launch were the Mayor Cllr Michelle Knight-McQuillan and HM Lord Lieutentant for the County of Antrim, Mrs Joan Christie OBE as well as members of the Royal British Legion, Building Communities Resource Centre and councillors.
Speaking to the Ballymoney Times before the launch, chairman of Ballymoney and District Cultural and Heritage Society, Sammy McClements said that the programme had been a year in the planning.
“This event will be the biggest taking place in Northern Ireland to mark the centenary of the Battle of the Somme.
“We have a planned a programme of free events which will teach people about the history of the Somme and which will also bring people to Ballymoney from all over Northern Ireland.”
Mr McClements said that the programme of cross-community events will run from June 27th until July 2nd.
The Band of the Irish Guards will play at the official opening of the event on Thursday 30th at 10am.
Beginning the programme of events on June 27, 28 and 29, the Nerve Centre, Derry, will run two History of the Somme and Easter Rising Workshops in Ballymoney British Legion as part of the Creative Centenaries Project.
Later in the week there will be a pre-event breakfast with the main event in Ballymoney Showgrounds opening on June 30th from 10am - 10pm.
The Showgrounds will play host to a re-enactment display, WW1 Field Kitchen, various military displays, a recreation of a WW1 trench, exhibitions and there will be WW1 Military Vehicles and volunteers in WW1 uniform.
A Reading Room Bus will also be sited in the Showgrounds offering children’s and adult workshops.
In addition, a display of war time vehicles and personnel dressed in period military uniforms will be promoting the events throughout the town centre of Ballymoney.
On the evening of June 30th, there will be a poignant candle-lit vigil event which will take the form of an Act of Remembrance along with story telling at the Showgrounds.
Then on the morning on Friday, July 1st, to mark exactly 100 years since the start of the Battle of the Somme, the blowing of a whistle will take place at 7.20am at Ballymoney War Memorial in remembrance of the men who went “over the top” to the command of a whistle.
At exactly 7.30am, to mark the moment that battle began, a cannon will be fired from the Showgrounds.
A commemoration event will also take place at the town War Memorial on High Street.
The Showgrounds will continue to host re-enactments and exhibitions during the day.
Later that evening, there will be a parade and service of reflection.
Forming at Townhead Street at 6pm to move off at 6.30pm for a service of reflection in 1st Ballymoney Presbyterian Church at 7pm.
The event will be led by a local marching band and taking part will be the Lord Lieutenant of County Antrim, Ballymoney Royal British Legion, ex-service associations, local youth organisations along with the Mayor of Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council and councillors.
That evening there will also be a World War One themed dance event in Ballymoney RBL clubrooms.
There will be dance lessons and music from the era from Three’s Country.
The final day of ‘The Somme Remembered’ on Saturday, July 2nd will once again see the Showgrounds as the focal point of activities.
It it also hoped that the local Chamber of Commerce will join in events with a window dressing competition.
* www.ballymoneytimes.co.uk @BMoney_Times