Events to mark 100 years since start of first World War

Ireland will be among those remembering the ‘war to end all wars’

British soldiers in the trenches during the first World War. File Photograph: Getty Images

British soldiers in the trenches during the first World War. File Photograph: Getty Images

Thu, Jan 2, 2014, 09:08

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the start of the first World War and with it comes four years of commemorations.

The war began with the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo on June 28th, 1914, and ended on Armistace Day, November 11th, 1918.

Some 72 present-day countries, including Ireland, took part in a conflict which still retains the power to horrify and divide opinion.

The official commemorations will begin in Sarajevo with a week long series of events culminating on June 28th. It is being partially funded by four of the main protagonists in the war, the UK, France, Austria and Germany.

France, which saw the worst fighting of the whole war including the pivotal battles of Marne, Somme and Verdun, has invited all the nations involved to join the Bastille Day parade on July 14th this year.

Belgium, which contains the killing fields of Passchendaele, Ypres and Mons, will begin its commemorations on August 4th, the day it was invaded with a ceremony at Mons which will also include representatives from the UK and Germany.

It has set out three themes for its commemoration: remembrance of all those who died, Belgium’s role as a peace maker in future conflicts and how multilaterism, most notably the European Union, has brought an end to conflicts.

The British government has announced a £50 million (€60 million) series of events which will continue for four years s.

A programme of national events spanning the four-year commemoration will begin with a special service in Glasgow Cathedral followed by a wreath-laying ceremony at Glasgow’s cenotaph for Commonwealth leaders.

At Westminster Abbey in London, a candlelit service of prayer and penitence will end at 11pm on August 4th to coincide with the moment at which Britain’s declaration of war with Germany was issued. There will also be a ceremony on Mons in Belgium where the first and last British soldiers who were killed in the war lie buried.

However, the British government’s official commemorations have divided opinion between those who believe the first World War was a senseless slaughter with “lions led by donkeys” and those who feel it was a justified conflict given Germany’s aggressive militarism and invasion of neutral Belgium.

A group calling itself No Glory has been set up to counter what it believes will be a celebration of British militarism that will gloss over the horrors of the war.

The film director Ken Loach, actors Jude Law, Alan Rickman and Timothy West are among those who have signed a letter saying that the war should be remembered as a “military disaster and a human catastrophe”.

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