Young guardsman from Melton to take last watch at overnight vigil in Westminster Abbey marking centenary of the Somme

Troops going over the top at the start of the Battle of the Somme in 1916 EMN-160624-150044001

Troops going over the top at the start of the Battle of the Somme in 1916 EMN-160624-150044001

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A young guardsman from Melton will be taking the last watch at an overnight vigil in Westminster Abbey marking the centenary of the Battle of the Somme.

The vigil, which will be held at the Grave of the Unknown Warrior, will commence with a half-hour service tonight and conclude with a dawn service tomorrow (Friday)

The Abbey will be open to the public throughout the night as the vigil is kept. Those who took part on all sides of the battle will be represented by the groups of service personnel taking part in the watch.

Gdsmn Jamie McDonald (19), from Melton, will take the last watch. He is serving in Nijmegen Company Grenadier Guards and is currently based with the ceremonial battalion doing Queen’s Guard.

He has been on operational training exercises all over the UK and taken part in Queen’s Birthday Parades in 2015 and 2016.

Jamie’s maternal great great grandfather, who hailed from the Manchester area, was a machine gunner in the Somme who suffered horrific injuries. He had half his face blown off but miraculously survived the war.

Jamie comes from a long line of military - his father was in the Army Royal Logistic Corps, his grandfather served in the RAF and his great grandfather was in the Royal Navy.

He said: “This is a big gig but I’m determined to do my best. I’ll be thinking of my great great grandfather who served in the Somme and all those others in the conflict.”