Those who fell in one of the bloodiest battles in British military history were remembered in a vigil and memorial service five years ago this week.

An all-night vigil and early morning service at an airfield commemorated the 100th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme.

The memorial event began at sunset yesterday at North Weald Airfield as Epping Forest District Council vice-chairman councillor David Stallan lit a brazier beside a reconstructed First World War trench.

Dressed in the British Army uniform from 1916, airfield staff kept watch over the flames throughout the night in memory of those who died during the battle.

Memoirs by George Mitchell, the grandfather of council officer Alison Mitchell, were read out.

He fought in and survived the second battle of the Somme in 1918.

The commemoration service followed the vigil and was led by Father James Rodley of nearby St Andrew’s Church.

The service saw John Duffel of the Royal British Legion tell the story of rifleman Paul Kinnell from Epping, who died aged 22 on the first day of the battle on July 1, 1916.

Council chairman councillor Jeane Lea said: “The Battle of the Somme has entered British folklore as the bloodiest episode in the history of the British Army.

“Hardly a village, hamlet or community was left unaffected and the names of the fallen are to be found on war memorials the length and breadth of the country.

“I would like to thank everyone who got up early and made the journey to North Weald despite the rain.

“By keeping the memory of the Somme alive, perhaps we can play our part in ensuring nothing like it ever happens again.”