6 First World War centenary events

Monday marks the 100th anniversary of the day Britain entered the First World War. Here, we’ve rounded up the biggest commemorative events taking place on the day, plus some ways you can mark the occasion from home or work


A Service for the Commonwealth at Glasgow Cathedral

At 10am there will be a wreath-laying service at the Cenotaph in George Square attended by representatives of the Commonwealth nations and the Prince of Wales. There will also be a service at the cathedral, broadcast live on BBC One.


The Cathedral service will be shown live in George Square to those who hold a ticket for the event. Only those in possession of a numbered ticket will be able to gain access to George Square on the day.

There will be similar events taking place across the UK, including at Durham Cathedral and at Birmingham Cathedral.

To find out about events taking place near you, click here.



Everyone in the UK is invited to take part in #LightsOut by turning off their lights from 10pm to 11pm on Monday 4 August, leaving on a single light or candle for a shared moment of reflection.

The campaign is inspired by the phrase used by the then foreign secretary Sir Edward Grey on the eve of the outbreak of the war: “The lamps are going out all over Europe; we shall not see them lit again in our life-time”. Britain declared war on Germany at 11pm on 4 August 1914.

To find out more about the campaign, click here.

Commemoration at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s St Symphorien cemetery in Mons, Belgium

This commemorative event for around 500 guests will be based around music, poetry and readings that reflect the history of the site.

Organised in partnership with the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, the service will be attended by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and HRH Prince Henry of Wales.

The event – which starts at 7.30pm GMT – will be broadcast on BBC Two.

To find out more, click here.

A Service of Solemn Commemoration at Westminster Abbey

In a service broadcast live on BBC Two, the Abbey will move from light into darkness until one candle remains at the Grave of the Unknown Warrior, which will be extinguished at 11pm, marking the exact moment of the declaration of war. The vigil will feature music, readings and poetry, as well as diary entries and letters from 1914.

Huw Edwards in London and Sophie Raworth in Belgium will introduce the evening of live coverage of commemorations from 6.30pm. Coverage of the Westminster service will begin at 9pm.

To find out more about the service, click here.

The revamped Imperial War Museum

The Imperial War Museum (IWM) London reopened in July following a multi-million pound transformation, with new displays to mark the centenary of the First World War.

At the new permanent First World War Galleries visitors can learn how the war started and why it continued, and – through the lives of those who experienced it – come to understand the global impact of the conflict.

More than 1,300 objects including weapons, uniforms, diaries, letters and souvenirs will be on display in the 14 chapters of the galleries.

To find out more, and to take a look inside the new exhibition, click here.


Online treasure troves

If you want to explore historical sources yourself, there’s a wealth of letters, diaries, maps and photographs available to view online.

The National Archives has launched a dedicated First World War site where you can explore thousands of records, or become a citizen historian and help archivists tag diaries you might know something about.

Meanwhile the British Library website boasts newly commissioned articles written by historians alongside 500 historical sources from across Europe.

Plus, the University of Limerick has developed an online exhibition that follows the lives of one family throughout the war to illustrate the social, physical and emotional impact of the conflict. It is based on the diaries, correspondence, photographs and memorabilia accumulated by the Armstrong family of Moyaliffe Castle, County Tipperary, between 1914 and 1918.

The exhibition – which will run until 2018 – consists of a weekly post of material from 100 years ago that week detailing life for the Armstrongs and their friends in the lead up to, and during, the war.

During the day you can stay informed of the different events taking place by following #WW1Aug4 on Twitter.

In the August issue of BBC History Magazine, which is a First World War special, historians including David Reynolds, Dan Snow and Max Hastings select what they consider to be the greatest misconceptions of the 1914–18 conflict.


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