Weston Park in Sheffield became the latest site protected under the Centenary Fields programme with a plaque unveiling as part of a ceremony commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme.
A parade, open to members of the public, took place in the park on Friday 1st July followed by the dedication of the new plaque, watched by the Lord Lieutenant and Deputy Lord Mayor Councillor Anne Murphy.
Weston Park was selected to be dedicated as a Centenary Field by Sheffield City Council because of its local heritage and significance. The York & Lancaster Memorial within the park commemorates the loss of more than 8,800 soldiers during the First World War, including the Sheffield Pals.
In common with other industrial towns in the north of England, Sheffield was quick to form its own "Pals" battalion in the early weeks of the First World War. In September 1914 a full complement of around 1,000 local men were recruited within just two days. On July 1st 1916, the first day of the Battle of the Somme, the Sheffield City Battalion (the 12th Service Battalion York & Lancaster Regiment) fought alongside the Accrington and Barnsley Pals in the heroic but failed attempt to capture the heavily fortified village of Serre in France. Tragically, the Sheffield City Battalion was largely wiped out, with around 500 men being killed or wounded in battle on this single day alone.
Of the dedication of Weston Park, Councillor Terry Damms, Sheffield City Council's Armed Forces Champion, said: "Dedicating a Centenary Field is a fitting way to commemorate the sacrifice of those who lost their lives in the conflict and ensures that their communities benefit now and in the future from protected green spaces.
"This commemoration will celebrate the historic local links of the Sheffield City Battalion of the York and Lancaster Regiment among others.
"By further safeguarding Weston Park, this new Centenary Field designation will contribute towards creating a living UK-wide legacy in commemoration of the sacrifice made by those who lost their lives in this terrible war."
Fields in Trust Chief Executive Helen Griffiths said "Our Centenary Fields commemoration of WWI is a four year programme, but there are specific moments which bring sharply into focus the impact of the War. The first day of the Battle of the Somme saw more casualties than any other day in military history. We want to create a living legacy to the fallen and recognise the impact on their families and wider communities, like those here in Sheffield, through our Centenary Fields programme which will preserve, forever, recreational space to be enjoyed by future generations."
Weston Park was one of the first municipal parks in Sheffield and first opened its gates to the public in 1875.
It remains one of the UK's finest public parks, further enhanced by its recent 21st century restoration and it enjoys national Green Flag Award status. As an historic and important city flagship site and well established visitor destination. Significantly, there are two war memorials located in Weston Park, including those who fought in the Sheffield City Battalion. The York and Lancaster Regiment Memorial was unveiled in 1923 in memory of 8,814 officers and men who died in the First World War. A later inscription records the death of 1,222 members of the Regiment during the Second World War. The Transvaal War Memorial commemorates the Boer War (1899 to 1902). The memorial was moved to Weston Park in 1957 from its original site on the forecourt of the Sheffield Cathedral.
Fields in Trust North of England Development Manager Jamie Leeson spoke to BBC Radio Sheffield during the commemorations about the park and the Centenary Fields programme: