A soldier from Rotherham, whose great-grandfather fought at the Somme, marked the hundredth anniversary of the battle, as troops across Yorkshire paid their respects…

Private Chris Allen, 32, of 4th Battalion The Yorkshire Regiment, remembered his great-grandfather’s bravery during the First World War. Bombardier Clement George Allen, of Conisbrough, fought at the Somme and Ypres – he survived the war, but died before Chris was born.

Chris, who has served in Afghanistan, was one of hundreds of soldiers from Yorkshire who commemorated those who fought and died for their country.

“I feel incredibly proud to say that he contributed,” said Chris, part of Sheffield-based Burma Company. “It was a major point in history and he has been immortalised alongside everyone else involved. I just wish I could have met him and pulled up a sandbag to chat about his experiences during the war, to see how they compare to mine.”

The Yorkshire Regiment is marking the centenary of the Battle of the Somme with a series of events across the county. Three sharp blasts of a First World War whistle from the Somme battlefield were sounded at the York City War Memorial at 7.30am to mark the start of fighting in northern France 100 years ago

At 10.30am, a paving stone was unveiled at Leeds Minster in memory of Corporal George Sanders who was awarded the Victoria Cross for “conspicuous bravery” on the first day of the Somme. Cpl Sanders was isolated with a party of thirty men, together they drove off enemy attacks for 36 hours without any food or water. He brought 19 of his men safely back to the British trenches.

Chris paid his respects at the cenotaph in Sheffield before visiting his great-grandfather’s final resting place later in the day. In the evening, he attended a commemoration event at the Army Reserve Centre in Huddersfield, where a gun-salute was fired using First World War rifles.

Chris, who used to be a regular soldier in 3rd Battalion The Yorkshire Regiment, added: “My great-grandfather died before I was born and so all I have are second-hand memories from family. They all say he was a big man with hands like shovels and his heart matched them both.”

Clement George deployed to France on the 20th July 1915 with the Royal Field Artillery, 79th Small Arms Ammunition Column. In his role he worked closely with horses and was injured when one stood on his foot, leaving his toes a little deformed for the rest of his life. He went deaf in his left ear from firing the guns and later developed Pyrexia and had to be medically evacuated in July 1918.

Clement George, who served as part of the Civil Defence during the Second World War, had six children. He died in March 1983 aged 88. His grandson, Stuart Allen – Christopher’s father – served in Northern Ireland and his identical twin, Gerald, was a sergeant in the RAF during the Falklands War. Both sides of Chris’s family have a rich military history, his mother Lynn was a clerk in the Royal Navy and her father also did national service.

Chris, who works as a joiner in his day job, said: “I had always wanted to be a soldier since I can remember and the family embraced my decision to serve 100 per cent. My dad influenced me the most, although the mystery of what my great-grandfather’s service and experience entailed has always been there.”

Yorkshire provided 62 battalions for the Somme and 35 of these fought on the first day, 1st July 1916. Throughout the 141 days of the battle 7 Victoria Crosses were awarded to Yorkshire soldiers.

A drumhead service at the Army Reserve Centre in Huddersfield commemorated the 165 officers and 2994 men who were killed in action that day. The event was attended by Her Majesty’s Lord-Lieutenant of West Yorkshire, Dr Ingrid Roscoe, as well as serving soldiers and veterans.