Organised by Richard Dunning MBE, an official Ceremony has been held at the Lochnagar Crater every year since 1979, at first it was a very simple affair, being attended by just four people and of course, the cross had yet to be erected. That first cross was installed in 1986, in time to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the start of the Battle of the Somme.
Over the years the Ceremony has grown and developed, attracting up to an estimated 1,500 people to the tiny French village of La Boisselle. The Ceremony commences at 7.28am.
Although no two ceremonies are the same, over the years they have developed and conform to a recognisable format. Ceremonies such as the Lochnagar Crater Ceremony, do not ‘just happen’, much time and effort is expended in planning and preparation. Many people generously give their time and expertise to ensure that each one is a unique and moving experience.
What’s needed? – a few of the ‘ingredients’ are: fireworks, pipers, whistles, standard bearers, singers, programme distributors, a sound system, wreath layers, the Chaplain, poppy and cornflower petals, a coordinator, and of course the site has to be prepared beforehand.
For Richard, and Iain Fry (Vice-Chairman of the Friends), preparation for the next Ceremony commences very soon after the end of the current Ceremony, but for most of the ‘Friends of Lochnagar‘, preparation starts in earnest in late May. When for a few days around the late May bank holiday, those of the ‘Friends’ who can make the journey to the Crater, spend the time ‘gardening’ and keeping the foliage down to ensure that the Crater looks at its best for 1st July.