On the 4th of August 1914, Britain declared war on Germany. Sir Edward Grey, Britain’s Foreign Secretary, said the:
“lamps are going out all over Europe; we shall not see them lit again in our lifetime”.
That war, which became known as the ‘Great War’ and later the ‘First World War’, lasted just over four years, resulting in 888,246 British and Empire fatalities. It was arguably the most devastating event of the 20th Century, affecting virtually every family in the country.
Tonight, the 4th of August 2014, a hundred years later, the nation will commemorate the start of the Great War and the loss of so many lives with the ‘Lights Out’ campaign.
Between 10.00pm and 11.00pm (BST) tonight, turn all of your house or building lights off and light a candle to commemorate the start of World War I.
This post is not about just remembering the start of the Great War – we should never forget that the life expectancy for an airman in Bomber Command was the same as that of an infantryman in the trenches of the First World War.
For the Fallen
With proud thanksgiving, a mother for her children,
England mourns for her dead across the sea.
Flesh of her flesh they were, spirit of her spirit,
Fallen in the cause of the free.
Solemn the drums thrill: Death august and royal
Sings sorrow up into immortal spheres.
There is music in the midst of desolation
And a glory that shines upon our tears.
They went with songs to the battle, they were young,
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted,
They fell with their faces to the foe.
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.
They mingle not with their laughing comrades again;
They sit no more at familiar tables of home;
They have no lot in our labour of the day-time;
They sleep beyond England’s foam.
But where our desires are and our hopes profound,
Felt as a well-spring that is hidden from sight,
To the innermost heart of their own land they are known
As the stars are known to the Night;
As the stars that shall be bright when we are dust,
Moving in marches upon the heavenly plain,
As the stars that are starry in the time of our darkness,
To the end, to the end, they remain.
Poem by Robert Laurence Binyon (1869-1943), published in The Times newspaper on 21st September 1914.