Britain Celebrates WWI Centenary in Darkness

On August 4th, the official start date of the WWI centenary, Great Britain was host a number of events in honor of the war that cost them nearly one million lives. After a full day of various events through the United Kingdom’s four separate nations, citizens were united by a single event in which nearly anyone was able to take part. Two hours before midnight, when the beginning of the WWI centenary was winding to a close, people throughout Great Britain all turned the lights out for an hour of prayer and remembrance.

Millions took part in this epic event, whether they were civilians, military veterans, or people operating in an official capacity. The central hub of the event was located in Westminster Abbey, where one candle was symbolically snuffed out to honor those who lost their lives in the First World War. Though many events in honor of the WWI centenary have had an air of festivity about them, this particular event was solemn in tone. Great Britain was not alone in this event, either. Belgium, another nation that was heavily affected by the war, was also the site of similar commemorations and remembrance ceremonies.

Prime Minister David Cameron spoke in Belgium, at an event where Prince Harry was also present alongside the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. In this way, Great Britain and Belgium were able to honor the WWI centenary together, in a show of solidarity. They certainly shared a history during the war, as one of the first battles in which the British fought during the conflict took place on Belgian territory. In Mons, the British and the Belgians fought the Germans side by side, The Telegraph reports.

The service as Westminster Abbey had all the solemnity over the Belgian ceremony over which Prime Minister David Cameron presided, though it was much more silent. Everyone in attendance took up a candle, which they all extinguished at the appointed time. The WWI centenary ended with a dim, quiet reflection on the number of people lost by many nations. This remembrance was extended not just to the fallen Britons, but to everyone and everything that was lost to the war in general.

As the WWI centenary kicks into full swing, many politicians are reminding people to remember that this truly was a worldwide conflict. Nations who were once enemies are now allies, and many feel there is no room for resentment over what happened one hundred years ago. Many are pushing for the continued solemn remembrance of the war which separated the world, but is now bringing people together as they look at the WWI centenary as a lesson that all nations involved in a war stand to suffer the same loss of life.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE