Report by Sean Morris, UK & Ireland Mayors for Peace Chapter Secretary
Over the past four years, many towns and cities in Europe have been holding events for the centenary of the First World War. These will conclude later this year with events across Europe and around the world in November 2018, the centenary of the end of the First World War.
The city of Manchester is remembering the huge costs and human impacts of one such event, in what has been known as the Battle for Manchester Hill, close to the northern French town of St Quentin on the western front in March and April 1918. Manchester Hill was an area of slightly higher ground captured in April 1917 by the 2nd Battalion of the Manchester Regiment, which included the acclaimed war poet Wilfred Owen. On 21 March 1918, Manchester Hill was attacked by the German army and defended by the 16th Battalion of the Manchester Regiment. Of the 168 men who fought to defend the position, only 17 managed to return to the British Lines. By the end of this battle in mid-April a total of 79 were killed and the rest were either wounded or taken into captivity as prisoners of war.
Several events are being held to commemorate and remember the sacrifice of this battle. On Friday 13 April, Manchester Cathedral will host Manchester Hill Remembered – an immersive, atmospheric and poignant performance of new music, poetry, spoken word, and photographs from the time to explore the impact of war on communities, and the heartbreak and loss felt, through the unique stories of individuals. A wreath-laying ceremony led by the Lord Mayor of Manchester at the Cenotaph behind Manchester Town Hall will also take place on Sunday 15 April. An exhibition, at Manchester Central Library about Manchester Hill, featuring historic regimental photographs alongside pieces of creative writing from school pupils inspired by the battle, is now on display. Such events are a reminder of the huge human cost of war.