Commemorating the Great War

This week it is still important to remember the sacrifices made by millions of people, many from our own local communities as we join in the centenary commemorations of the Great War. Britain declaring war on Germany at 11pm on 4 August 1914 which saw the start of one of the darkest periods in the nation’s history.

With names on war memorials in all of our towns and villages, many with relatives living today, along with the National Memorial Arboretum, the Commonwealth and German War Cemeteries on Cannock Chase, Staffordshire has a long history of involvement, remembering, reconciliation and national focus for these commemorations.

Over the next four years there are lots of activities and events taking place to remember the county’s role in the Great War and to help future generations understand the legacy of the conflict. Our new website will be able to tell you what’s happening in your own local area.

Our Archives Service have produced a WWI War Memorial guide to help communities research their own local memorials. This is a free downloadable guide with 114 of the county’s memorials in it and packed full of photos. You can download it from the Staffordshire Great War website.

Our Poet Laureate, Tom Wyre has also written a series of special poems for us as part of our commemorations. Two of the poems, ‘Outbreak’ and ‘The Arrival’ follow the outbreak of the War from August 1914, through the trench battle scenes and finally detail the personal impact on loved ones through a telegram.

The Shugborough Estate is currently playing host to the Life on the Eve of War exhibition, reliving life on the estate through photographs and artefacts reflecting life for the Anson family and their servants at the house during the outbreak of war.

At Stafford Records Office you can also view the unseen final letters of 19-year-old Staffordshire soldier Private Horace Hill, from Eccleshall. Horace was killed on the front line in Soissons, in Northern France and his moving letters reveal his disillusionment with his situation as he shares his thoughts with his family. His final letter was dated just 9 days before his death in May 1918.

On August 4th, the anniversary itself, Shire Hall Gallery and County Buildings will be joining the nationwide Lights Out campaign for a shared moment of reflection. The campaign will see lights in buildings and homes across the country switched off from 10pm to 11pm as a mark of remembrance. Inspired by a famous remark made on the eve of the outbreak of war by the then Foreign Secretary, Sir Edward Grey: “The lamps are going out all over Europe; we shall not see them lit again in our life-time”.

I hope people will join me and millions from across Europe in these times of reflection and take part in the many countywide events over the next four years until 11am on 11 November 2018, the centenary of when the guns finally fell silent.

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