At the going down of the sun and in morning, we will remember them

So yesterday was the big day, the 100th anniversary of the start of The Great War – The war to end all wars until of course WW2 at least.

Like many other people I spent much of the day watching the live ceremonies from around the country and in France and Belgium.  Reading extraordinary accounts of how burial parties on the western front would encounter nests of wild and fearless rats living inside the chest cavities of the dead soldiers.

Prince Harry at the unveiling of the new memorial arch in Folkestone.

Prince Harry at the unveiling of the new memorial arch in Folkestone.

In my book Lest We Forget, I mention how one unfortunate fellow got stuck in the deep mud just a few feet from the duck-boards his colleagues would run across on a daily basis.  He was just out of reach and after initial valiant attempts to rescue him, it was deemed impossible and so day after day the poor man sank lower and lower.  A week later he was quite mad before he at last disappeared under the mud.

A nation remembers

A nation remembers

I thought that account was bad enough but it is surely equalled by the unfortunate chap who suffering from dysentery, after a series of events ended up falling face first into a pile of his own excrement where he drowned.  Depressing stuff and something worth being depressed about.

At the setting of the sun and in the morning, we will remember them.

At the setting of the sun and in the morning, we will remember them.

Memorial events were held all through the day from Glasgow to Folkestone and as well as remembering those who fought, there was a spirit of forgiveness and friendship as the Kings, Queens, Princes and Princesses, Presidents and Prime Ministers of Germany, France, Belgium and the United Kingdom came together in reconciliation remembering the past together as friends and allies.  War now in any part of Europe is unimaginable except of course for Russia and for that we can thank the sacrifices of those that came before us.

When You Go Home, Tell Them Of Us And Say,. For Your Tomorrow, We Gave Our Today.

Around the Tower of London, volunteers have planted 900,000 ceramic red poppies, one for each of the British deaths of WW1 and they will remain there until Armistice Day.  In Folkestone a new ceremonial arch has been built on the route that the men marched on their way to the ships that would take them across the sea.

At Bovington Tank museum (home to the very first tanks amongst hundreds of others), 1 million poppies were dropped above men in WW1 battle-kit as WW1 planes played out a pretend dog-fight overhead.

One million poppies

One million poppies

During the evening we watched the 3 hour memorial service at St. Symphorien military cemetery at Mons.  It was a beautiful event to watch as the great and good read out testimonies and letters from WW1 soldiers.

Remembering at Mons.

Remembering at Mons.

Then a soldier played ‘The Last Post’ which as my wife put it, made her very sad.  I’m sure she wasn’t the only one as I like that tune too and everyone from the Royal Family members downwards seemed to become upset at one point or other during the day.

The Last Post played at St Symphorien

The Last Post played at St Symphorien

I can’t find the Last Post video from last night but here are two from the annual Festival of Remembrance and also the nightly remembrance at the Menin Gate in Belgium.  Held every night at 8pm, it is said that it will be in the 27th century before the ceremony has played out by local volunteers as many times as equal the British deaths in the war.

I’ve been to Menin Gate before and it is incredible, as big as it is, it was found to be not large enough for all of the names to be inscribed. In fact the stonemasons were still putting on the finishing touches to the memorial when the hostile forces arrived at the start of WW2.

Dogfight between WW1 era British and German tri-planes

Dogfight between WW1 era British and German tri-planes

Then at 10pm, attention switched to Westminster Abbey.  Where a service was held and one by one the candle lights were put out leaving until the last, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

The Tomb of the Unknown Warrior is for all those who have no graves to grieve.

The Tomb of the Unknown Warrior is for all those who have no graves to grieve.

There are countless tombs of Kings, Queens, Generals and Poets on the floor of Westminster but only this tomb is one that you have to walk around, just inside the giant doors to the old building.

Households across the land switched off their lights and lit candles or small lamps.  Entire villages and towns switched off all their lights and the great public buildings and works of art were put in darkness.

Houses of Parliament with lights off.

Houses of Parliament with lights off.

Downing Street remembers

Downing Street remembers

Goodbye Picadilly, farewell Leicester Square... the normally blazingly neon signs at Picadilly are switched off except for remembrance.

Goodbye Picadilly, farewell Leicester Square… the normally blazingly neon signs at Picadilly are switched off except for remembrance.

.Buckingham Palace remembers

Buckingham Palace remembers

Lest We Forget

My easy to understand but comprehensive history of WW1 in Kindle and Paperback.

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About Stephen Liddell

I am a writer and traveller with a penchant for history and getting off the beaten track. With several books to my name including a #1 seller, I also write environmental, travel and history articles for magazines as well as freelance work. Recently I've appeared on BBC Radio and Bloomberg TV and am waiting on the filming of a ghost story on British TV. I run my own private UK tours company (Ye Olde England Tours) with small, private and totally customisable guided tours run by myself!
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11 Responses to At the going down of the sun and in morning, we will remember them

  1. EBotziou says:

    Such a moving day – great blog post Stephen.

    Like

  2. Alex Jones says:

    Sadly, many people in Britain went about their lives oblivious of the significance of 4th August. I placed one red rose down at each of seven war memorials in Colchester yesterday.

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    • Yes, it was the same in my village of Leavesden. Our new memorial was unveiled a month ago and 150 or so came out which was amazing but several thousand didn’t. I’d imagine their grandparents or great parents would be quite ashamed of that.

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  3. Francis says:

    I used to work in tourism at Victoria station and remember drinking in the pub in the station there before it was destroyed to make way for the new (then) Laker airways office. It was the last pub all those soldiers going onto the western front would have had a drink in blighty.

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  4. Thanks for giving me a taste of the wonderful ceremonies that have been going on. I think that it is so important to remember and be grateful for the enormous sacrifice. Lest we forget.

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    • Some of the ceremonies have been incredible. The photo of the soldier playing The Last Post looks beautiful and yet doesn’t tell half the story. I think it is really good that so many children are remembering so that the war will live for another 100 years. It’s just unimaginable that somewhere like London can switch off the lights. It just shows what a debt we have to all those brave people.

      Like

  5. Reblogged this on fionaandsimonincanada and commented:
    I think this is such a great post that I had to share it. What a fitting tribute to such a terrible war and the loss of so many young men. Lest we forget.

    Like

  6. Malla Duncan says:

    Thank you for a moving tribute and the pictures.

    Like

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