Lights Out as Britain Commemorates WWI

The centenary of the First World War is underway, and Britain recently underwent the Lights Out Initiative, in which citizens and officials spent a bit of time in the dark as they honored those who died for their country during one of history’s deadliest, most politically charged conflicts. Prime Minister David Cameron and the Royal Family also joined the citizenry in this initiative, turning their lights out for one hour.

The idea for this special occasion stems from a quote by Sir Edward Grey, made shortly after the onset of the Great War. Britain’s Foreign Secretary at the time, he stated that “the lamps are going out all over Europe.” He went on to say that “we shall not see them lit again in our lifetime.” In honor of this poignant remark and everything it stood for, the Lights Out initiative asked citizens to extinguish almost all light sources in their homes from 10PM to 11PM on the anniversary of Britain’s entrance into World War I. Only one lone candle or other small light source was left in each abode, standing in the windowsill to symbolize a flicker of hope.

This event was not limited to homes, but was also extended to businesses and public buildings. Tower Bridge and 10 Downing Street were among those that participated in the event. While participation in the Lights Out Initiative was certainly not required, everyone who could join in the ceremony was urged to do so. Prime Minister David Cameron was one of the biggest proponents of the event, feeling that it would help Britons to join in a spirit of commemoration for their fallen relatives, the Mail Online reports.

The initiative came at the end of a long day of worldwide tribute ceremonies. The formal beginning of the centenary was celebrated all over the globe, with Britain holding prayer services and other special events and activities. Once 10PM rolled around, it was then lights out for everyone who wanted to take part in this special, more personal form of tribute. The beginning of the initiative also coincided with an event held by Westminster Abbey, with many British officials in attendance.

The Lights Out Initiative was celebrated by many citizens and officials across Great Britain, but it will not be the last chance they have to commemorate the war together. The centenary technically lasts for four years, so there are likely to be many more ceremonies and commemorative events in the near future. Though it was lights out for a short time, the lamps have most certainly been lit again, and Britain is motivated to celebrate those who kept them burning.

Ian Harvey

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