Belfast Telegraph

Belfast to join in national day of commemoration to mark start of First World War

By Ellen Branagh

A national day of commemoration in the UK and Belgium – including a service at St Anne's Cathedral in Belfast – will mark 100 years since Britain's entry into the First World War, part of an epic four-year project to mark the centenary of the Great War.

With a build-up starting in June 1914, Britain declared war on Germany at 11pm on August 4, 1914.

As war raged over the next four years, millions of lives were lost in the devastating conflict, until the armistice on November 11, 1918.

A century on, the world is commemorating the Great War throughout the four-year period, with a series of major events next Monday marking Britain's entry into the war.

On August 4, services of remembrance in London and Glasgow and a commemorative event in Belgium will be attended by members of the royal family and senior politicians from Britain, Ireland, Germany, Belgium and the Commonwealth.

The Prince of Wales will attend a service at Glasgow Cathedral, which will be followed by a wreath-laying service and march-past at the Cenotaph in George Square.

Later that day, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry will attend an evening commemoration at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission's St Symphorien cemetery in Mons, Belgium, where the first and last British soldiers killed on the Western Front are buried.

The event for around 500 invited guests will be narrated by historian Dan Snow and will include readings, music and poetry.

And at 10pm, a Service of Solemn Commemoration will be held at Westminster Abbey, attended by the Duchess of Cornwall.

It will include the gradual extinguishing of candles, with an oil lamp extinguished at the tomb of the unknown soldier at 11pm – the exact time Britain joined the war. Anglican churches around the UK will hold similar services, including St Anne's Cathedral in Belfast and Llandaff Cathedral in Cardiff.

Acts of reflection will also take place in places of worship of other denominations and faiths, and Catholic churches will have held special Masses the day before.

And in the same hour, the UK has been urged to take part in Lights Out, which will see lights switched off across the country in places of worship, public buildings, workplaces and private homes, with just one left burning in each place as a symbol of continuing hope in the darkness.

The project is a reference to then-foreign secretary Sir Edward Grey's famous remark on the eve of the outbreak of war, when he said: "The lamps are going out all over Europe; we shall not see them lit again in our lifetime".

As part of a Government-backed programme, each of the 430 men awarded the Victoria Cross in the war – including 37 in Ireland – will have their names enshrined in a paving stone in their home town.

Each stone will be installed on the 100th anniversary of the action for which the medal was issued.

The Government has contributed more than £50m of funding to support commemoration activities, including an educational programme giving two students and a teacher from every state school the chance to visit First World War battlefields.

There will also be a Christmas Day Truce football match on the battlefields of Flanders to mark the anniversary of the historic match between British and German soldiers on Christmas Day 1914.

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