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Lights go out across Britain, 100 years on from WW1


(Reuters) - Lights across Britain switched off for an hour on Monday night in a tribute to the dead of World War One inspired by the prophetic observation of Britain's foreign minister on the eve of war 100 years ago.

"The lamps are going out all over Europe," Edward Grey told an acquaintance, shortly before Britain declared war on Germany on Aug. 4, 1914. "We shall not see them lit again in our lifetime."

British landmarks, including the Houses of Parliament, Tower Bridge and St Paul's Cathedral, went dark from 10 p.m. local time (2100 GMT), and Prime Minister David Cameron had asked Britons to switch off all but a single light in their homes for an hour.

The "war to end all wars" spread carnage across Europe, especially northern France and Belgium, killing 17 million soldiers and civilians in 1914-18. Over one million of the dead were soldiers from Britain and its then empire.

Lights Out in London to Remember World War One Heroes

Grey's prophecy was also at the center of a service in London's Westminster Abbey later on Monday, where candles went out one by one until only a burning oil lamp remained at the Grave of the Unknown Warrior.

At 11 p.m., the lamp was extinguished, marking the exact time the British Empire joined the war. In Trafalgar Square, one single light shone from an old police box.

Acting as beacon for the capital, a monumental pillar of light beamed into the clouds from Victoria Tower Gardens. Installation "spectra" by Japanese artist Ryoji Ikeda was commissioned by 14-18 NOW, the official cultural program for the centenary, and will fade away as the sun rises over the London skyline on Aug. 11.

"The light that 'spectra' throws up into the night sky is a unifying point; it echoes how the First World War affected all Londoners, but also how they and the rest of the country came together, standing united during those dark days," Boris Johnson, the mayor of London, said in a statement.

Moths darted across the beams, giving the work, which was accompanied by a sound composition, an ethereal twinkling. A black cab stopped in the middle of a busy road next to the park so its driver could lean from his window to capture the column on a mobile phone.

"It's like something biblical," one woman exclaimed, as other spectators wandered between the lights.


Prime Minister Cameron and Prince William, second in line to the throne, attended 100th anniversary ceremonies in Scotland and Belgium on Monday. Speaking at an event in Liège, William paid tribute to those who died. He noted that the current fighting in Ukraine showed that instability continues to stalk Europe.

"We were enemies more than once in the last century and today we are friends and allies," the prince said, alluding to Germany and its cohorts in the First and Second World War.

"We salute those who died to give us our freedom. We will remember them," he told Belgium's King Philippe and other heads of state attending the Liège ceremony at the Allies' Memorial, near to where German troops invaded Belgium in the early hours of Aug. 4, 1914 - the event which brought Britain into the war.

Commemorations in Germany are understated, with no national initiative to remember the war. But Germans have been encouraged to place flowers on soldiers' graves and many local, small-scale efforts marked the anniversary.

In Munich's city center, a white hot-air balloon was tethered to the ground as a symbol of hope and peace, and artist Martin Schmidt installed his work "Kraterfeld" - a lawn littered with craters and small bumps, replicating the shell explosions and trenches in landscape around Verdun, northeast France.

Politicians and royalty from 83 countries, including presidents Francois Hollande of France and Joachim Gauck of Germany, were among those in Belgium. In Glasgow, Scotland, Cameron was joined by heir-to-the-throne Prince Charles at a centenary service.


"When you think that almost every family, almost every community was affected, almost a million British people were lost in this war, it is right that even 100 years on, we commemorate it, we think about it and we mark it properly," the Conservative prime minister told the BBC earlier on Monday.

The war's most enduring symbol, poppies, featured at the Tower of London with an art installation called "Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red," by Paul Cummins, in which thousands of ceramic poppies flow from the medieval monument's wall into the dry moat.

The artwork will grow throughout the summer until 888,246 poppies have been added to represent each British or colonial fatality during the war - more than double the number of Britain's casualties in World War Two.

Red poppies have become a symbol of remembrance since the trench warfare waged in the poppy fields of the Belgian region of Flanders during the war.

Join the discussion

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Sabulum August 04 2014 at 3:53 PM

Well done, Great Britain.

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1 reply
beautyfoundation Sabulum August 04 2014 at 8:40 PM

Traditional British are an awesome bunch and show world class civility!

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1 reply
harry beautyfoundation August 05 2014 at 6:30 AM

couldn't have said it any better

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decorsbie August 04 2014 at 4:10 PM

The Brits really know how to treat their vets. Good for them!

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dalenorris August 04 2014 at 4:23 PM

For once, can we please leave all snarky comments aside and instead, bow our heads for those who lost their lives in pursuit of freedom.

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3 replies
wadisplace August 04 2014 at 4:15 PM

RIP to the veterans of WWI. Including my grandfather who fought on the German side. How the world has changed in 100 years.

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2 replies
crotalus wadisplace August 04 2014 at 4:26 PM

Amen, yet the world of men hasn't really changed. We are still killing each other for the most inane of reasons.

"My God is greater than your god".

"Only we can protect those who speak the same language as us".

"Your skin is the wrong color, you may not come here".

"Our ancestors owned this land two thousand years ago and we want it back".

It just goes on and on.

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1 reply
loara71 crotalus August 05 2014 at 1:12 AM

You might not know this but saddly, war is part of life and freedom for many. If you want your freedom you have to fight for it at times. Let's remember that this article is about THOSE THAT WERE THE BRAVE ONES AND DID THAT, fought for the freedom.......... not about your space on this earth and in this comment sectioin to complain.

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Steve wadisplace August 04 2014 at 10:15 PM

What did you have in mind with the comment: "Our ancestors owned this land two thousand years ago and we want it back."?

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2 replies
savannahswithgod Steve August 05 2014 at 7:20 AM

Whoever has the biggest gun at the time owns the land. A bigger gun comes along and it will own the land. But always a new bigger gun comes along in time, the Creator there and his wisdom!

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wbearl Steve August 05 2014 at 8:59 AM

Please re check your history. That chunk of sand has been "owned" by many, many different people, each displace by another through war. Even the chosen ones displace people to claim ownership, all those thousands of years ago. Each group claims "Religious" connections to the land. So which of all those owners should we give the land too?

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tony.br1 August 04 2014 at 3:56 PM

Out of respect for all those that died military and civilian, I will not bring other subject matter into this comment. RIP 1914-1918

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2 replies
Kate tony.br1 August 04 2014 at 5:15 PM

Thank you for that. It gets very annoying because it IS disrespectful to talk about anything else.

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Felicia Milholland tony.br1 August 04 2014 at 5:16 PM

That should go without saying!

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patriot1too August 04 2014 at 4:43 PM

God bless the soldiers of that great War. Sadly in America today a new report show that 71% of all service age youth are not even qualified for military service they are so dumbed down and sorry.Saggy pants sideways cap,hoody wearing, neck tattoed PC victim wannabe nit wits. Wake up sheeple.
This obama mess has lowered the bar on everything, military, marriage, race relations, jobs to communist china, national debt, family values, dumbing down our youth with that awful political correctness, VA, IRS, spying on American citizens, pandering to every flavor of the week immoral fringe group out there, obamacare ponzi scheme etc. Clearly this obama mess is a trojan horse president inserted by those who wish to do America harm. Hope and change??? B.S. He is a failed social experiment and no that wild eyed feminist cult member hillery clinton would be no better.

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9 replies
mcfoxxyslady August 04 2014 at 3:43 PM

And where will our president be?

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21 replies
Kate August 04 2014 at 5:12 PM

It is very fitting that this anniversary be commemorated in those two ways. I used to buy poppies myself from WWII vets here in the U.S. when I was younger.

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2 replies
Sarah Kate August 04 2014 at 7:59 PM

Kate, we have the same memories & I also remember some of the men in our town, fathers of friends who served in that War as well - so if we speak of comparisons, perhaps that is why -
AS we know, times change but much is NOT always for the better - At least the relations between Britain & Germany, as well as the US & Germany are for the better.....
I am thankful for that but do not care for al the criticism by those who complain about ones who express their concerns & complaints about the leaders in our Country today - we are BETTER than what we have now & changes are needed - we MUST!!

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cheleiams Kate August 05 2014 at 10:33 AM

They still sell them closer to Veterans Day, although now most of the vets are from the Korean and Vietnam wars. My daughters and I make a point of looking out for them each year.

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jewel August 04 2014 at 4:25 PM

golf- poolhall-out to eat-and ---well to lie to us some more.... THAT'S WHAIR OUR ----- PRESIDENT WILL BEEEEE.

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4 replies
ram4131 August 04 2014 at 4:39 PM

Does Germany have anything planned for instigating BOTH word wars?

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2 replies
luigi1947 ram4131 August 04 2014 at 5:16 PM

just cant let it go, can you
btw, they are busy writing checks..............

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1 reply
ram4131 luigi1947 August 04 2014 at 5:28 PM

Just figured if Britain is having a remembrance of the 1,000,000 countrymen lost, maybe Germany might want to light a candle or 2.

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ronbo681 ram4131 August 04 2014 at 7:01 PM

Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia. Serbian killed archduke Ferdinand of Austria and his wife Sophia. Russia declared war on Austria to protect Serbia. Germany declared war on Russia to help Austria-Hungary. France declared war on Germany to regain the eastern provinces it lost in the Franco-Prussian war and to help Russia. If France had stayed out it there would have expanded into a world war.

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1 reply
buddwhyzr ronbo681 August 04 2014 at 9:18 PM

After that fairly accurate thumbnail sketch, It DID in fact expand into a World War. Even Japan declared war on Germany in WWl ! Even what is now Iraq was involved. Keep studying. I'll give you a C for your report.

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