THE BLOG

Remembering the First World War

04/08/2014 15:22 BST | Updated 01/10/2014 10:59 BST

By Stephen Liddell, the author of Lest We Forget: A Concise Companion to the First World War.

Monday 4th August will see us finally reach the landmark occasion of the 100th anniversary of the declaration of war between the United Kingdom and Germany and what for most people would be the start of the First World War.

As the statesman Sir Edward Grey put it, "The lamps are going out all over Europe, we shall not see them lit again in our life-time". A whole series of remembrance services will be taking place not just on the 4th but throughout the next 4 years, but few will be more remarkable than the lights out activity which is being publicised by the Royal British Legion.

Between 10pm and 11pm every British household is being asked to switch off its lights and light a candle or simply turn on a small lamp in remembrance of the beginnings of the First World War.

Our country has changed almost out of all recognition in the last 100 years and it is a real testament to the countless men who died a century ago that so many members of our country will pause and remember the sacrifices made by our fathers, grandfathers and great-grandfathers.

For to really understand our nation and indeed the world, you have to understand and appreciate the First World War. How it set up a chain of events for many nations around the world and how it left Britain almost in ruins. Ruined financially, physically and, at least regarding the blind faith in which we followed what our forebears would call "our betters", morally.

Too often it is said that our national character and fabric has changed in a bad way but all over the country services and activities are being planned for the coming 4 years. Across the country, war memorials are being repaired so that they look as good as new. In fact many places are funding new WW1 memorials such as the one which has been erected in Leavesden, Hertfordshire near me.

Unveiled in July 2014, it is made of long-lasting granite and financed from the local community and local businesses to ensure the heroes of 100 years ago will be remembered in 2114 too. Around 150 people attended the unveiling with a sermon to the war-dead, and a quiet reflection from the community followed by tea and scones and a toast to those who fought so that we might live in freedom. The event ended in a toast to the Queen and an old fashioned community get-together.

We might not now all rush to join up to fight in a patriotic fever but it seems that not quite everything has changed from a century ago and I'm sure our heroic ancestors would be pleased about that.

Stephen Liddell is the author of Lest We Forget: A Concise Companion to the First World War, published by Endeavour Press.