‘Do not think this is war. This is not war, it is the ending of the world’
As Commonwealth Games close, Glasgow remembers outbreak of war
Sir Trevor McDonald: “Especially as this city has known the privilege of welcoming our commonwealth brothers and sisters to the Games just past, it is right that we pause now to remember their contribution.”
For the Rev Laurence Whitley, there were no answers, only questions, as he stood in Glasgow Cathedral to begin the UK’s commemoration of the outbreak of the first World War.
“Our service today carries no single, simple message, no defining summary of what today means, for there is none,” he said. “We meet because on a summer’s day like this one, one hundred years ago, the world changed.”
For the past fortnight, the Scottish city has rejoiced in the Commonwealth Games, hosting thousands of athletes and welcoming more than a million guests to the city. In George’s Square, the 71 flags of the Commonwealth were replaced by four Union Jacks, while representatives from those same 71 nations gathered in the cathedral for the service.
Many of those in the cathedral had direct links with the war. Prince Charles’s great-uncle Capt Fergus Bowes-Lyon died at the Battle of Loos in 1915.
Three of his wife Camilla’s great-uncles perished, including one who died at the Somme in 1916, while British prime minister David Cameron’s great-uncle was also among the 761,000 British and Irish dead at the Somme.
Earlier Mr Cameron said: “It is right to remember the extraordinary sacrifice of a generation and we are all indebted to them, because their most enduring legacy is our liberty.”
Perhaps because of the proximity of the Commonwealth Games, the role of countries such as Canada, Australia, New Zealand, but also of those from West African countries such as Nigeria, was emphasised.
“Especially as this city has known the privilege of welcoming our commonwealth brothers and sisters to the Games just past,” said veteran broadcaster Sir Trevor McDonald, “it is right that we pause now to remember their contribution.”
More than one million Indian soldiers served, of whom 54,000 were killed. Sixty thousand came from South Africa, Nigeria, Uganda and Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe. Reading from a letter from one Indian soldier, Indian high commissioner Ranjan Mathai said: “Do not think this is war. This is not war, it is the ending of the world.”
The service featured poems, prayers and readings, reflecting the contribution of those from around the commonwealth, finishing with children leaving carrying candles of peace.
Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht Heather Humphreys represented the Irish Government.
Labour leader Ed Miliband and the Liberal Democrat deputy prime minister Nick Clegg were criticised for failing to leave handwritten notes with their commemorative wreaths. The Labour leader was also criticised for wearing a short black jacket, rather than the more formal overcoats worn by other dignitaries.
The criticism sought to revive Michael Foot’s 1981 Remembrance Sunday appearance at the Cenotaph in London wearing a donkey jacket.
The day of commemoration ended at Westminster Abbey when a solitary candle was the only illumination in the 1,000-year-old building, marking the moment “the lights went out all over Europe”.