This violin belonged to a soldier who fought at the Somme

11 October 2018, 17:00 | Updated: 15 October 2018, 11:18

By Sofia Rizzi

This violin is a piece of history: it belonged to Herbert Simmons, 'Uncle Bertie' to his family, who died at the Battle of the Somme. This week the leader of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra played the instrument at Classic FM Live: The Great War Symphony, a concert marking 100 years since the end of World War One.

This week at the Royal Albert Hall, hundreds of musicians came together to mark the centenary of the end of World War One. And there was one very special violin in the orchestra.

Listen again to the concert here >

This violin was played by leader Clio Gould and originally belonged to Herbert Simmons, known as ‘Bertie’. He was a soldier and amateur violinist – who dreamed of becoming a professional musician.

In 1916 he was sent north of the Somme with The Royal Sussex Regiment to Richebourg in France to divert German soldiers headed for the Somme. He sadly fell in action during this diversionary battle the night before the Battle of the Somme.

Bertie’s brother, Lawrence Simmons, who was only 16 at the time of his brother’s death, forged his parents’ signature and enrolled to fight in the war in memory of his brother. He kept the violin in the family as an heirloom (and various family members have learned to play on it).

One of Bertie's descendants, Ruth Hoare, now sings in the National Youth Choir of Great Britain. The NYCGB is one of the ensembles involved in performing and recording The Great War Symphony, so the family kindly offered the violin to be played as part of the project.

The violin was played by violinist Clio Gould who was leading the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, at Classic FM Live: The Great War Symphony. This concert was the world premiere of The Great War Symphony by former-Classic FM Composer in Residence Patrick Hawes, to mark the 100th anniversary of the end of World War One.

Buy The Great War Symphony on CD here >