Good morning ladies and gentlemen. I would like to welcome you to this, the 33rd annual remembrance ceremony at the Lochnagar Crater.
First, as always, a thank you to the wonderful Friends of Lochnagar who have done so much to help maintain and preserve this special place and to Ian Alexander and the superb Somme Battlefield Pipe Band.
A welcome too, to our distinguished French friends here today, as well as those of Germany, the Commonwealth, the United States and today, for the first time in the Ceremony, Italy.
A special thank you to Friend Tim Rogers who has done these beautiful wood carvings that grace our splendid new cross.
This is a simple ceremony where everyone takes part. At the end, you will be invited to take a few poppy petals and scatter them where you wish. And at Lochnagar, where each petal falls a young man fell.
The Lochnagar Crater is a unique memorial. Privately owned and funded entirely by voluntary donations.
It is also a living symbol, an awesome wound that commemorates the sacrifice and the loss of countless communities and families who suffered in that terrible war.
Today, for the first time a wreath will be laid on behalf of a lady who told me her grandfather had returned from the war with his mind shattered forever by the horror. He spent almost 50 years alone and unvisited in an asylum.
Just one of countless forgotten young men, and just as much a casualty as those who lie in the cemeteries around us.
We specially remember them today.
As last year, at the end of the ceremony I invite you to join us in linking hands to completely encircle the crater, symbolising the shared sacrifice, the fellowship and the reconciliation that Lochnagar can inspire in all who visit.
By that simple act we pay tribute to the courage and compassion of the men of all sides who fought and fell here.
And may we vow, in their memory and in their honour to return home and help make the world that they were so tragically denied a little more loving, more forgiving and more peaceful.