(CNN)Streets throughout the United Kingdom were transformed Friday into scenes reminiscent of World War I.
It’s the 100-year anniversary of the Battle of the Somme and people across the country paid homage. About 300,000 British, French and German soldiers lost their lives in the battle, which began on July 1, 1916, and lasted months.
More than 1,500 volunteers dressed up as soldiers to commemorate the event, according to the National Theatre website
Each volunteer adopted an identity of a World War I soldier that was killed during the battle. He carried a card of the soldier he represented, handing it out to passers-by.
The project did more than echo history — it made the battle relevant to present day.
“The image struck me as a mysterious blend of the old and the new; a poignant echo from the past patched into the hectic present. This tribute made people slow down and feel something, which is quite a feat in the busy hive of London,” Nick Gentry, a London-based artist who took a photo of the soldiers marching in formation, told CNN.
The inspiration for the “We’re Here Because We’re Here” (a reference to a song sung by soldiers in the trenches) project came from families who reported seeing visions of their deceased loved ones, according to the theater.
“I wanted to make a contemporary memorial to mark the centenary of the Battle of the Somme, one that moved around the UK with an unpredictability in which the participants took the work directly to the public,” artist and co-creator Jeremy Deller told CNN.
Jenny Waldman, Director of 14-18 NOW, the UK’s arts program dedicated to the centenary, said it “has given hundreds of young people across the UK the chance to find out more about the Somme, and in some cases discover the stories of family members who fought in the war.”
Lawyers, doctors, sheep farmers and people of other professions made up the corps of volunteers, said the theater website. It took a month of rehearsing to prepare for the event.
People reacted to the green-clad men and posted emotional photos and comments on social media with the hashtag #wearehere.
Photographer Ryan T. Crow, who snapped photos of soldiers marching throughout Belfast, Northern Ireland, and interacting with residents, said that the scenes were “very moving.”
Meanwhile, a similar scene occurred in Birmingham, where Verity Milligan captured the “wonderfully moving scenes” around a railway station.
Wonderfully moving scenes around Birmingham this morning commemorating 100 years since the battle of the Somme began. 20000 lost their lives in one day. Lest we forget. Did you see any where you are? ———————————————— #WeAreHere #somme100 #somme #soldier #ww1 #battleofthesomme #tribute #war #worldwarone #lestweforget #ww1centenary #birmingham #newstreet #igersbirmingham #thisisbham #brumpic #vsco
Some 19,240 British men lost their lives on the first day of Somme.
Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2016/07/01/world/100-years-since-somme-irpt/index.html