NEXT year marks the 100th anniversary of The Battle of the Somme, which began on July 1, 1916.

On that first day, 100,000 British soldiers joined the battle in France and 58,000 of them became casualties, including 19,000 who were killed.

By the time the battle ended on November 18, the British alone had suffered 400,000 casualties.

The Durham Light Infantry paid a particularly heavy price. Of the 15,000 DLI soldiers who fought on the Somme, more than half were killed, wounded or reported missing.

It is right, therefore, that County Durham commemorates the Somme’s 100th anniversary in the right way and we are sure that it will.

However, it makes the timing of the announcement to close the DLI Museum in Durham all the more surprising.

The plan to close the museum and move its collection to storage in Spennymoor is another consequence of austerity, and we appreciate the county council’s intention to ensure the artefacts are made subject to temporary loans and exhibitions.

But opposition to the closure plan appears to be mounting and relatives of Victoria Cross holder Private Adam Wakenshaw have now added their voices to the concerns that Durham City is about to lose an important part of its history.

It is a plan which seems to have come suddenly and without the kind of consultation that is warranted.

Our plea, therefore, is that the authority, with its new chief executive now confirmed, gives further consideration to how the DLI collection could somehow be retained in its home city.

A century after the darkest day in British military history, it is a decision which should not be rushed.