“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
Today, 4 August 2o14, is the 100th anniversary of the UK entering World War I, the so-called War to End All Wars.
Can it really be 100 years since the start of World War I? For my generation, whose parents were born in the 20 years between the twin cataclysms of World Wars I and II, the Great War has always been a looming presence. It’s always been part of our shared experience. However, for our children it is ancient history. It’s no closer to them than the Boer War was to us.
It’s hard for people my age to grasp that our children have no idea what we’re talking about when we joke, “I fought in two world wars for you!” at the bus stop.
The World War I veterans are all dead now. The grand old woman who skittered along the local shopping parade in her bath chair — an ancient relic of a vanished world even then — and the scarred old man with the metal plate in his head who used to shout at us for no reason, they’re both long gone.
Tonight, as a mark of respect and reflection everyone in the UK is invited to join in with LIGHTS OUT from 10pm to 11pm. Turn off all your lights except one. Light a solitary candle in your window, whether it be a wax candle, a torch or the light from your phone.
Bring World War I alive with modern technology: download the fantastic, free LIGHTS OUT app from Turner Prize-winning conceptual artist Jeremy Deller and watch his four short films. The culmination of the work happens at 10pm tonight when the final LIGHTS OUT film will be available for just one hour.
Search the Commonwealth War Graves Commission database by street name and postcode and see how your street was affected by the war. Did the women living in your house or the house next door receive one of the dreaded telegrams announcing that a cherished husband, father or son had been killed in action?