More than 1,000 people are expected to march through Chester to remember soldiers who fought in the First World War.
On August 24, 1914, the Cheshire Regiment suffered heavy losses at the Battle of Mons while protecting the withdrawal of the British Expeditionary Force.
Now, 100 years later, in a moving tribute to the fallen and those who bravely fought in the Great War hundreds of servicemen, cadets and volunteers will parade through the city to mark the centenary.
Roads throughout the city will be closed for around five hours as the parade winds through Chester to the Castle where the 'volunteers' will be enlisted to fight for King and country in a reenactment.
Amongst the crowds will be hundreds of factory workers from Unilever in Port Sunlight, who will be walking in the footsteps of their predecessors – the largest group of volunteers to sign-up to fight for their country.
One hundred years ago 700 Port Sunlight volunteers signed up to fight, and in a moving tribute the same number of the company’s current employees will join the march starting outside the business’s gates on Sunday (September 7).
The Great Send Off march will see the workers parade through Port Sunlight before boarding a train and arriving at Chester Railway Station and joining the annual Battle of Mons parade outside Chester Cathedral after a service of commemoration at 11am. The service will be led by the Bishop of Chester, the Rt Rev Dr Peter Forster, followed by the parade at which the salute will be taken in Eastgate Street by the Lord Mayor, Bob Rudd, the Lord Lieutenant for Cheshire, David Briggs and Brig Ian Cave, president of the Cheshire Regiment Association who is also the representative colonel for Cheshire of the Mercian Regiment.
Once the two parades are combined over 1,000 people are expected to be seen parading through the city.
Earlier this week the Lord Mayor of Chester Cllr Bob Rudd joined soldiers at the battlefield in the village of Audregnies to place a granite plaque to commemorate the bravery of the 25 officers and 925 men of the 1st Battalion the 22nd (Cheshire) Regiment who fought in the bloody battle on August, 24, 1914.
“The Battle of Mons should be remembered for the sacrifice and bravery of the men who stood firm to the end and only surrendered when low in numbers and completely overwhelmed by the enemy.
“The Battalion started out with 1,000 men. By the end at roll call 200 men answered their names. Seven officers (of 25) survived. The rest were either killed, wounded or missing. It was devastating.
“The battalion behaved magnificently in the face of terrible odds and immense difficulty, one could not expect more of them.
“They did their duty, and did it thunderingly well, as I should have expected from such a gallant battalion, and I am only grieved that they had such terrible losses.”
Read the full interview with Major Pickering here.
Spectators are asked to line the route dressed in period costume, and are asked to sing along with the 700-strong volunteers, soldiers and re-enactors as they march through Chester city centre accompanied by the Port Sunlight Lyceum Brass Band and Theatre in the Quarter's Over by Christmas chorus.
Soldiers from the 2nd Battalion of The Mercian Regiment, Army Cadets, Sea Cadets, Air Training Corps, the Combined Cadet Force and representatives from the Royal British Legion will join the volunteers for the final stages of their walk to Chester Castle.
Entry to the Cheshire Military Museum at Chester Castle on the day will be free, and the Tame Valley Classic Car club will stage a static display of vintage and classic cars in Port Sunlight village
An approximate time line for the event:
- 10.30 Great Send Off parade exits Unilever Port Sunlight gates
- 10.45 William Hesketh Lever’s speech to the ‘Port Sunlight Volunteers’
- 10.50 All sing God Save the King
- 11.00 Parade boards train at Port Sunlight railway station
- 11.30 Parade arrives at Chester railway station
- 12.00 Parade begins walk to Chester Castle via Chester Cathedral
- 12.30 Parade arrives at Chester Cathedral to join up with the Battle of Mons parade
- 12.45 Two parades depart Chester Castle
- 13.00 Parade arrives at The Castle Square
- 13.15 General Mackinnon’s speech to the ‘Port Sunlight Volunteers’
- 13.30 Enlistment of the ‘Port Sunlight Volunteers’
- 14.00 Event close
Road closures will take place from 9am for five hours at Bridge Street (Grosvenor Street - Watergate Street); Watergate Street (Bridge Street to Nicholas Street/St Martin’s Way); Northgate Street (Princess Street to Eastgate Street); St Werburgh Street (Northgate Street to Eastgate Street); Eastgate Street (Northgate Street to The Eastgate Clock); Foregate Street (The Eastgate Clock to St John Street); St John Street (Foregate Street to Little St John Street).
During this time parts of City Road, The Bars Roundabout, Foregate Street and Grosvenor Roundabout, will also be closed by the police for around 20 minutes to allow the parade to process to and from Chester Cathedral.
City Road, between Station Road and Queen’s Road, will be closed from 10am for a maximum of three hours.
For further information visit www.portsunlightvillage.com.