Commemorating WWI

One hundred years ago, Britain declared war on Germany, leading to four years of bloodshed, the like of which had never been experienced before


As the centenary of the outbreak of World War I officially begins, a plethora of commemorations are taking place around the world. Artists have already made their mark on proceedings with poignant works, such as Paul Cummins’ Blood Swept Lands and Sea of Red. Cascading out of a window of the Tower of London are 888,246 ceramic poppies – each representing a British military fatality. They flow over the walkway and across the dry moat, allowing people to walk through the artwork.


In Birmingham yesterday, those who died were remembered with Nele Azevedo’s striking installation of 5,000 ice sculptures. Each in the shape of a person, the sculptures were perched on steps in the city centre and people were invited to attach ribbons to them. As the miniature ice people melted, Azevedo gave us a potent reminder of the sacrifices made by so many.


With the BBC televising commemorations throughout the day, it is easy to share in the major events taking place.

This morning, many European leaders met in the Belgian town of Liege – where the German advance into France was first halted – for a service of remembrance. Belgium is also hosting a gathering in Mons, at 6.30pm this evening. Guests, including relatives of soldiers who fought in the war, will listen to music and poetry while surrounded by the graves at St Symphorien Military Cemetery.

In Britain, ceremonies are being held at Glasgow Cathedral, Cardiff’s Llandaff Cathedral and St Anne’s in Belfast. A candle-lit vigil concludes the day in Westminster Abbey at 11pm, the exact time war was declared.


Everyone can take part in the #LightsOut campaign by turning off all their lights for an hour, except for a single candle, as an act of reflection. Organised by the Royal British Legion, #LightsOut was inspired by the famous quote by Sir Edwards Grey, Foreign Secretary in 1914: “The lamps are going out all over Europe; we shall not see them lit again in our lifetime.”


The hour of darkness begins at 10pm.