Sunday, 11 November 2018

100 years on we shall remember them: Britain commemorates its WWI dead

100 years on we shall remember them: Britain commemorates its WWI deadThey may no longer be with us - the last of their number, Harry Patch, died in 2009, aged 111 - but we will remember them. Around the country thousands of people will pay tribute on Sunday to those who died on foreign soil or at sea for their country, and those at home who endured the anguish and hardship of global war. On the 100th anniversary of the Armistice events will take place in every corner of the British Isles to commemorate the sacrifice of a generation during the First World War, which only came to an end at 11am on November 11, 1918, after an almost incalculable loss of life. The numbers still have the power to shock. Between 1914 and 1918, 886,345 UK troops were killed. Another 228,569 troops from the wider British Empire were killed, more than 74,000 of them from India. Each one was a son, father, husband or brother who willingly or not, whether with courage or almost paralysed by fear, died in a conflict whose causes and conclusion were beyond their control. In addition there were 6.32 million civilians killed when total war visited their communities, 109,000 of them in the UK , 300,000 in France and 426,000 in Germany. The acts of remembrance being organised to commemorate this loss will be as varied as they will be moving. They range from the formal state occasion of the National Service of Remembrance at the Cenotaph, where Prime Minister Theresa May and the Prince of Wales will lay wreaths, and a special service at Westminster Abbey being attended by the Queen and other senior members of the Royal family, to the Yorkshire town of Otley, where posters will be hung on more than 100 doors to remember the man who lived there but never returned from the front line. In addition each house in the town will also display a knitted poppy, with another 16,000 installed along the railings outside of All Saints Parish Church. The familiar chimes of Big Ben will mark the centenary of the Armistice, despite the clock tower being covered in scaffolding for conservation works. The 13.7 tonne bell, which hangs in the Elizabeth Tower in Westminster, will sound 11 times at 11am today for the traditional two minutes of remembrance. It will strike a further 11 times at 12.30 with bells ringing across the UK and worldwide as part of a nationwide programme of events to mark the end of the war. Wire Sculptor Jackie Lantelli from Slimbridge in Gloucestershire, England, with her Wire Soldiers installation at St John's Churchyard, Slimbridge,  Credit: PAUL NICHOLLS Many of today’s commemorative events have been communal efforts, drawing in whole families to remember the dead. In the West Midlands town of Walsall almost 100 houses in one street have been covered with 24,000 red poppies and the black silhouette statues of soldiers, symbolising the men from the area who were killed. Geoff Talbot, 74, one of those who decorated his home, said: "Lots of people have put a lot of effort to do this. In those days Aldridge was only a village, but a lot of local young men left and never came back. It is an absolutely nice way to do a tribute for them." A huge wall of 2,500 poppies also festoons the Bell Inn in nearby Willenhall, after locals painstakingly knitted the individual flowers by hand over a 24-month period. The day will not be without the kind of ironic humour one imagines would have been appreciated by the Tommies whose death in their thousands across the Western Front remain embedded in popular memory. Thwaites brewery, in Lancashire, is honouring one of WWI's Victoria Cross winners by naming the Shire horse that deliver its beer around Blackburn after him. The two-year-old gelding is being named ‘Drummer’ in honour of the East Lancashire Regiment's first WWI Victoria Cross winner, Drummer John Bent, aged 23. Bent was commended after saving a soldier from no-man's land and leading his platoon into action under fire after their officers and NCO's were all killed on 1st November 1914, near Le Gheer, Belgium. Drummer Bent’s was the 24th of a total of 628 VCs awarded during WWI. As well as recalling his heroism, the name 'Drummer' also commemorates the role of thousands of horses in the Great War. White van driver Christopher Curtis, 32, from Oldham, who served for 11 years as a Sapper in the Royal Engineers, has sketched the silhouette of a soldier standing over a field of poppies with the words "Lest We Forget" in the dirt on the back of his van. In Bolton, criminals sentenced to unpaid work orders by magistrates were deployed to decorate lamp posts, the town hall and other landmarks in the Lancashire town with 500 giant poppies. The factory in Aylesford, Kent, that makes poppies has worked around the clock for the first time to meet the unprecedented demand for the symbol of Remembrance Day, producing more than 1,500 a day for the past two and a half weeks. Mandy Barker, Head Flower Arranger, and Julia Weston, Volunteer, arrange flowers on the Remembrance Cross for Sunday's Service at York Minster Credit: Charlotte Graham/The Telegraph In a measure of the continuity of the tradition of remembrance a box of poppies believed to be from one of the early Poppy Appeals has been discovered in an old suitcase in Cardiff.. Bernie Axtell, 77, found them while searching for paperwork in his home. They are believed to date from before the Second World War and will be brought to the Cenotaph by Royal British Legion representatives today. Mr Axtell was handed the box of poppies by his friend Vic Luckhurst about 30 years ago, while working for the Legion in Street, Somerset. “I said to Vic that I would find something special to do with them,” he said. “Thirty years is a very long time to wait, but now they are doing something extraordinary." In Portsmouth a 24-hour guard of honour was being held at the city’s Cenotaph, with 200 people, including schoolchildren, veterans and serving members of the armed forces, working in 15-minute slots to stand by the monument until 10am today. Meanwhile silhouettes of soldiers from the First World War have been projected onto famous landmarks around the country by the There But Not There project to raise money for mental health charities. There include Marble Arch, Tate Modern, HMS Belfast, the Angel of the North, the Tyne Bridge, Titanic Belfast and Edinburgh Castle. In Ilfracombe, Devon, it was the bodies of people that made their mark yesterday, recreating a famous photograph from 100 years ago by spelling out the word ‘peace’ on nearby Capstone Hill to remember those who died so that we might preserve it. Residents of a Devon town have re-enacted a classic photograph to mark the 100th anniversary of the end of World War One. Locals and members of the public alike helped to recreate the original picture from 1919 by spelling out the word 'PEACE' on Capstone Hill in Ilfracombe.  Credit: MARK PASSMORE/APEX The original picture from 1919 in which residents of Ilfracombe spell out the word 'peace' Credit: Apex News and Pictures  

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