UK & World News

  • 5 August 2014, 8:06

World Leaders Unite To Mark WWI Centenary

Special events have taken place to commemorate the centenary of the day Britain entered World War One.

Prime Minister David Cameron, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, and Prince Harry attended at a solemn twilight ceremony at StSymphoriencemetery near Mons, Belgium, on Monday.

An estimated 37 million people were killed or injured in the Great War, which lasted from 1914 until 1918.

The graveyard near Mons is the final resting place of 229 British Empire and 284 German troops, among them the first and last British soldiers to die on the Western Front.

In an address to the crowd of 500 guests including German President Joachim Gauck, Mr Cameron said: "Every war is cruel. But this war was unlike any other.

"The unspeakable carnage, the unbearable loss, the almost unbelievable bravery.

"One hundred years on, it is right that we meet here - and around the world - to remember. Its legacy still affects us today - good and bad."

Prince Harry read a letter from Private Michael Lennon, of 1st Battalion the Royal Dublin Fusiliers, dated May 30, 1915, who wrote to his brother Frank the day before he was due to land in Gallipoli.

In the letter, Pte Lennon - who was killed in action on June 28, 1915, in Gallipoli - wrote: "Well Frank, I suppose we are for it tomorrow, if we don't get shelled on the way."

Back in the UK, the Duchess of Cornwall joined senior politicians, including Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, for a solemn service at Westminster Abbey.

The commemoration included the gradual extinguishing of candles, with an oil lamp snuffed out at the Grave of the Unknown Warrior at 11pm - the exact hour Britain declared war on Germany on August 4, 1914.

It paid tribute to the famous words spoken by the foreign secretary of the time, Sir Edward Grey, who remarked as he gazed out of his office and over St James' Park: "The lamps are going out all over Europe; we shall not see them lit again in our lifetime."

People in homes, workplaces, public buildings and places of worship across Britain had also been urged to turn off their lights at 10pm.

The Houses of Parliament, Tower Bridge and other landmarks were plunged into darkness, while a lone candle on the steps of Downing Street was the only light in that Whitehall corridor of power where so many tough decisions were taken 100 years ago.

Meanwhile, in Afghanistan personnel from all three services were joined by the US Marine Corps at Camp Bastion to mark the occasion.

Around 400 personnel congregated at the base's Vigil Site for a parade illuminated by the lights of military vehicles and the site itself, before a ceremony presided over by force senior chaplain Wing Commander Geoffrey Withers.

Earlier in the day, royalty, political leaders and relatives of the fallen attended other events across the UK and the world.

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