A guard places a lantern at the front door of Number 10
Downing St during 'Lights Out', as part of commemorations
to mark the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of World War
I in London. REUTERS/Dylan Martinez
Lights across Britain were being switched off for an hour
on Monday night in a tribute to the dead of World War 1,
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
British landmarks, including the Houses of Parliament, Tower
Bridge and St Paul's Cathedral, went dark from 10 p.m., 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.
Grey's prophecy was also at the centre 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. (2200 GMT), the lamp was due to be extinguished,
marking the exact time the British Empire joined the war. In
Trafalgar Square, one single light shone from an old police
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 programme
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.
FRIENDS AND ALLIES
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 Liege, William
paid tribute to those who died. He noted that the current
fighting in Ukraine showed instability continued to stalk
"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 wars.
"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 Liege 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 centre, 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
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
"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
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.