Today, Monday the 4th of August, we mark the day when Britain entered the First World War 100 years ago. It was a time when the world as we knew it changed as our nations and people found themselves in a war, the like of which has never been seen before.
It’s a day to remember the victims of the Great War. Nearly three quarters of a million British men never returned. A lot of people will have relatives who died during the first World War and I will be amongst them. My great-great uncle Wilie Kerr, on my mother’s side, went off to war and died at the age of 19 in France on October 12th 1918- a month before the Armistice. It is sad to think that my grandmother Jean never got to meet her uncle, the youngest in the family. Willie was the youngest son of William and Annie Kerr.
I was told the story of Willie by my uncle (mum’s brother) and my aunt as they were interested to know what happened to him. I found it so interesting and sad when I heard his story. I have always been interested in my family’s history and on that day I found out something new. My cousin a few years back went on a school trip to France and managed to find Willie’s grave and placed the only picture that we have of him and a cross next to his grave. And not so long ago my uncle and aunt went to France themselves and found his grave. It’s thanked to them that I have the picture of Willie’s grave (which is linked on the left). One day I hope to go to France and see Willie’s grave for myself.
I have no clue whether I have any relations from my dad’s side of the family who might have fought in WWI, but I wouldn’t be surprised if there was. Willie is someone who we remember every November on Remembrance day and buy a red poppy. And I will remember him today while I light a single candle and turn off every other light in my house between the hours of 10-11pm.
It will be a moment of darkness as lights throughout the UK will start to dim off and light one single candle. The last candles held by the congregation in Westminster Abbey for a solemn Commemoration on the Centenary of the outbreak of WWI will be extinguished. It will symbolise a horrible beginning and the start of the Great War. The idea behind extinguishing the lights is to echo the words of the then Foreign Secretary, Sir Edward Grey: ”The lamps have gone out all over Europe. We shall not see them lit again in our times”. The last flame, held by the Duchess of Cornwall, will go out over the grave of the Unknown Warrior, which dates from 1920. When this service of remembrance dips into darkness, it will refer not only to the outbreak of war but also its end.
Today is to remember all those who died and sacrificed themselves for their country. It is a day to remember the gallant soldiers, the weak and the frightened, those shot at dawn, those holding the fort at home, and even, as thought back then, the ‘enemy’. It is a day to remember them ALL.