Monday, 4 August 2014

The lights go out 1914 -2014

“The lamps are going out all over Europe; we shall not see them lit again in our lifetime” 
 Sir Edward Grey, British Foreign Secretary, August 1914

100 years ago tonight 11.00pm the 4th of August 1914 Britain officially declared war and so began the Great War or World War 1 as it was to become known. Today has not been one of celebration but commemoration, a day to reflect on that momentous day and the effect it would have on a whole nation and the world. The British legion has invited everyone in the UK to join in the remembrance being held at Westminster Abbey tonight, by turning out all their lights between 9.00 and 10.00pm leaving just one light or candle lit to mark the moment and to use the hour as a period of reflection.

Virtually no family was left untouched by the war or the great social changes it would bring in it's wake. My own ancestors either joined in the battle, did war work on the home front or in the case of my grandmother a young motherless girl at the time, she was sent to stay with relatives in London and ever after always had vivid reconciliations of hiding in the allotments when the zeppelins flew overhead. Turning our lights off is a small but poignant act of remembrance. A time now beyond living memory but one that should never be forgotten never the less. The Great War brought much change, one of the most chilling being that for the first time war became mechanical and so by default did death, all innocence, as well as a generation of youth, was lost in the carnage that would follow. A view we could not see 100 years ago tonight but now with the benefit of hindsight is all to clear.

Phillip Larkin

Those long uneven lines
Standing as patiently
As if they were stretched outside
The Oval or Villa Park,
The crowns of hats, the sun
On moustached archaic faces
Grinning as if it were all
An August Bank Holiday lark;

And the shut shops, the bleached
Established names on the sunblinds,
The farthings and sovereigns,
And dark-clothed children at play
Called after kings and queens,
The tin advertisements
For cocoa and twist, and the pubs
Wide open all day—

And the countryside not caring:
The place names all hazed over
With flowering grasses, and fields
Shadowing Domesday lines
Under wheat’s restless silence;
The differently-dressed servants
With tiny rooms in huge houses,
The dust behind limousines;

Never such innocence,
Never before or since,
As changed itself to past
Without a word – the men
Leaving the gardens tidy,
The thousands of marriages,
Lasting a little while longer:
Never such innocence again.

 We Remember 


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