Homes around the UK have dimmed their lights to remember those that perished in the brutality of the First World War. Many businesses and public buildings have joined the vigil, lighting of a single candle to mark the moment war was declared on August 4, exactly one hundred years ago today.
Speaking at a twilight ceremony on Monday at St Symphorien military cemetery near Mons, Belgium, David Cameron spoke of the "unbearable loss, the almost unbelievable bravery" of the war. "One hundred years on, it is right that we meet here - and around the world - to remember," he said. "Its legacy still affects us today - good and bad. We remember the reasons behind this conflict. Too often it has been dismissed as a pointless war, fought by people who didn't know why they were fighting. But that is wrong.These men signed up to prevent the domination of a continent, to preserve the principles of freedom and sovereignty that we cherish today."
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In the UK, the Houses of Parliament, Broadcasting House, home of the BBC in London, and St Paul’s Cathedral, as well as hundreds of councils, iconic buildings, national organisations, including the Royal British Legion, took part in the ceremony. Blackpool illuminations, the Eden Project, the Imperial War Museums and Tower Bridge also went dark.
Lights were turned off for an hour from 10pm on Monday, leading up to the moment at 11pm that Prime Minister Herbert Asquith declared Britain’s involvement in the conflict that would go on to claim an estimated 16 million lives. The commemoration follows on from the words of the then-foreign secretary Sir Edward Grey, who said portentously after the declaration "The lamps are going out all over Europe; we shall not see them lit again in our lifetime."
"Lights Out is a way for everyone to mark the First World War centenary and I would encourage people to take part and turn off their lights tomorrow at 10pm for an hour, apart from a single light or candle," David Cameron said on Sunday. "This will be a personal gesture in remembrance of all those who made the ultimate sacrifice for us 100 years ago. They must never be forgotten."
Kate Middleton is expected to attend a candle-lit service at Westminster Abbey, while the Royal Chelsea Hospital, whose famous red-coat wearing pensioners are all veterans, will switch off all electric light and have a single candle burning for the hour. The Legion, which has produced a video promoting the campaign, including figures such as Jeremy Paxman, serving military personnel and Chelsea Pensioners lighting candles, says it hopes 1 million candles will be lit to "remember each and every one of those Service men and women who gave their lives in the war to end all wars".