David Cameron has promised a "truly national commemoration" to mark the centenary of the First World War.

The Prime Minister said there would be £50million spent on events to mark 100 years since the outbreak of war in 2014, Armistice Day in 2018, and the dates of major battles in between.

There will also be a £5 million educational programme for school pupils, including trips to the battlefields, and support for an overhaul of the Imperial War Museum.

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Prime Minister David Cameron with young schoolchildren as they stand in front of a Sopwith Camel by-plane

Speaking at the museum in south London, Cameron said an advisory board of former defence secretaries, chiefs of staff and military specialists would bring together ideas for the commemorations.

"Our ambition is a truly national commemoration worthy of this historic centenary," he said.

"A commemoration that captures our national spirit in every corner of the country, from our schools and workplaces, to our town halls and local communities.

"A commemoration that, like the Diamond Jubilee celebrations this year, says something about who are as a people.

"Remembrance must be the hallmark of our commemorations."

The commemorations will include the centenary of the first day of conflict on August 4, 2014, the start of the Battle of the Somme on July 1 2016, and further events to mark Jutland, Gallipoli, Passchendaele and Armistice Day in 2018.

Some have criticised the timing of the announcement, and the use of public money for a commemoration on social networking sites.


Owen Jones
If we mark Great War in 1914, should be reminder of European ruling classes sending millions of ordinary people to die in senseless butchery


Ayse Veli
I find it disturbing that we celebrate the start of any war when we should be celebrating the end of war.


Kevin Maguire
Better to mark Centenary of end of Great War's slaughter in 2018 instead of start in 2014. Peace worth celebrating


Defending the decision to devote taxpayer funds to the commemorations at a time of spending cuts, Cameron said there was a public "fascination" with the subject.

"I am involved in a constituency case about a particular person who died in Chipping Norton at the end of the war and there is an argument raging about whether he should be included on the war memorial or not," he said.

"So to say people are not interested... they are. There is a fascination that I think we can tap into."

An advisory board on the commemorations, chaired by Culture Secretary Maria Miller, will include former head of the Armed Forces Sir Jock Stirrup, former head of the Army Sir Richard Dannatt and former defence secretaries Tom King and George Robertson.

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Prime Minister David Cameron address an audience of dignitaries to launch the 100th commemorations of World War one in two years time

It will also include former naval doctor Andrew Murrison, a defence minister appointed as the Prime Minister's special representative on the commemorations last year, historian Hew Strachan and novelist Sebastian Faulks.

The Prime Minister said it was important to mark the First World War because of the "sheer scale of sacrifice", with more than 16 million dead.

"This was the extraordinary sacrifice of a generation. It was a sacrifice they made for us, and it is right that we should remember them," he said.

The war had also helped "make us who we are today", he said, pointing to subsequent advances in the emancipation of women, recognition for ethnic minorities and improvements in medicine.

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The London Scottish in Hyde Park with their colours in 1914

He went on: "There is something about the First World War that makes it a fundamental part of our national consciousness.

"Put simply, this matters - not just in our heads, but in our hearts. It has an emotional connection. I feel it very deeply."

Cameron said there was "something captivating" about the stories from the First World War.

Thousands of schoolchildren will get the chance to visit battlefields like the Somme, Verdun and Fromelles as part of a Centenary Education Programme.

The project will cost £5.3m, with the first tours taking place in spring 2014 and running until spring 2019. Two student "ambassadors" and a teacher from each maintained secondary school in England will get to participate and report back on their experiences to fellow pupils.