News Article

Remembering the Battle of the Somme

Last Updated: 01 Jul 2016
Director Robert Hannigan joined staff, both military and civilian, on 1 July in a ceremony at GCHQ to mark the centenary of the start of the Battle of the Somme.

News article - 1 Jul 2016

With a long history of supporting the military, GCHQ joined in with nationwide events to commemorate those who lost their lives in the battle 100 years ago.

A reading of a diary entry of Private William Roberts from 1 July 1916 opened the ceremony, in it he described the “short but terrible rush” as the battle commenced. Private Roberts was killed at Etrun, Pas-de-Calais, on 15 June 1917, aged just 23.

After the national two minute silence was observed, at 7.30am, three whistle blasts were blown in memory of the signal to the troops to go “over the top” and begin the infamous battle. Director Robert Hannigan then laid a Somme Wreath at GCHQ’s memorial to those staff who have lost their lives at war.


The officers are dressed in smart brown uniforms and blowing special whistles
©GCHQ 2016

The Battle of the Somme took place between 1st July and 18th November 1916 and was the largest Western Front battle of World War One.  Its first day of conflict remains the bloodiest in the history of the British army, with over 19,000 British soldiers losing their lives and over one million dead or wounded by the end of the battle.

GCHQ can trace its history back to 1914 and the start of World War One. The catalyst needed to develop Signals Intelligence at the start of World War One was the widespread use of wireless by enemy forces and the discovery that intelligence could be produced from an in-depth study of their communications.

Today, GCHQ continues to assist British forces whenever and wherever they are deployed, providing intelligence to keep troops safe. Sometimes this involves GCHQ staff deploying overseas and 246 civilian staff have been awarded campaign medals for their service in warzones. Our commitment to the Armed Forces remains paramount, just as it did in World War One, and continues to help save lives. 


A red wreath dedicated to the fallen at the Somme on the GCHQ Memorial in the courtyard garden
©GCHQ 2016


Poppy wreath and army cap carefully laid on the grass in the GCHQ courtyard garden
©GCHQ 2016


A field of red poppies with a blue sky over
©GCHQ 2014 / Gus, aged 6