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France and UK to hold joint Somme ceremony

AFP · 29 Sep 2015, 08:39

Published: 29 Sep 2015 08:39 GMT+02:00

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Senior political and military officials from both countries and Germany will attend the service in Thiepval, in northern France, to commemorate the first day of the allied offensive in World War I.

"For the first time, the ceremony on July 1 will be jointly organised by the French and British governments," according to the office of France's secretary of state for veterans and remembrance.

"It will be a major ceremony with the aim of reviving the commemorative event," it added in a statement.

The Battle of the Somme was one of the bloodiest in World War I, leaving more than one million dead, wounded or missing between July and November 1916.

Britain is planning to hold a ballot to give out tickets to those who wish to attend next year's event, which is expected to draw some 10,000 people from Britain, France and the Commonwealth.

In France, anyone wishing to go can apply for a ticket but priority will be given to families of those who took part in the bloody offensive.

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A hundred years on, memories of the battle live on and the northern French region of Picardy  -- which includes the Somme department -- has become a hub for "war tourism".

Over the decades, tens of thousands of English-speaking families have visited to pay their respects at the grave of an ancestor or visit memorials, including Thiepval.

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