Families and communities whose forbears fell at the Battle of the Somme will have the chance to honour them at an event marking its centenary in France.
Culture Secretary John Whittingdale today opens the public ballot for tickets to next year’s commemoration in Thiepval.
The original Picardy village was completely destroyed during World War I and is home to the largest Commonwealth war memorial in the world.
Unveiled in August 1932 by Edward, Prince of Wales, it bears the names of more than 72,000 men who died in the Somme sector and who have no known grave.
Beside the memorial is a cemetery with equal numbers of Commonwealth and French graves, brought together from all over the battlefield.
The battle resulted in more than one million casualties, making it one of the bloodiest events in human history.
Mr Whittingdale urged people to take advantage of the opportunity to pay tribute to those who sacrificed so much and ensure their legacy continues.
“The events at the Battle of the Somme left a deep mark on the nation – almost everyone in the UK will have an ancestor who fought or died at the Somme,” added the Tory Cabinet minister.
He also revealed he would be announcing a further programme of events in the UK over the coming months.
Jean-Marc Todeschini, French secretary of state for veterans and remembrance, said that despite the courage of the soldiers who fought there, the offensive ended “in nothing but a cruel and tragic disappointment”.
He added: “Now, a century later, France and Great Britain have a moral obligation to pay tribute to the millions of men who risked their lives.
“No effort will be spared in France to welcome the families and descendants of those valiant soldiers of the Somme.
“France and the UK have an appointment with their history.”
The ballot, which is open to everyone and not restricted to those with a personal link, will remain open until November 18, the date the battle ended in 1916.
As well as the main televised commemoration on July 1, there will be a vigil the day before and a small event marking each of the 141 days of the battle.
Tickets, which are free, will be allocated in pairs.
For more information, visit www.Somme2016.org.