Global leaders put hostilities on hold
British and French soldiers stood shoulder to shoulder as their leaders united yesterday to reflect on the carnage and destruction of the Battle of the Somme.
Theresa May and Emmanuel Macron climbed the hill that had been at the centre of the fighting to look out on a scene of rural French tranquillity.
At the Thiepval Memorial, built in 1932 in homage to the 73,357 British soldiers who had no known grave after the battle, May and Macron laid a wreath made half of poppies and half of bleuets, the flower used by the French to commemorate their war dead.
The leaders were then led to the small, neatly kept cemeteries behind the monument.
They stopped in front of the grave of Rifleman Philip Ernest Stubbs, from Northamptonshire, who died on November 3, 1916, weeks before the end of the battle, at age 17. He was a member of the King’s Royal Rifle Corps, the British regiment in which May’s paternal grandfather, Thomas Brasier, also served.
Macron’s mind may also have turned to his great-grandfather, George William Robertson, who was British. He came to fight on the Somme and stayed on to marry a French woman with whom he had three children, before divorcing and returning to the UK.
May had earlier laid wreaths near Mons, Belgium, at the graves of the first and last British soldiers killed on the Western Front in the war.
Emmanuel Macron and Theresa May lay a wreath at the Thiepval Memorial in France.