1918 SPECIAL CENTENARY EDITION 2018
Who put Harry and Meghan in the cheap seats!
THE Great War is slipping beyond the fringes of living memory, and its incalculable losses will never be reconciled.
Still our desire to honour the fallen, the glorious dead, burns fierce. Now more than ever.
Today, exactly a century since silence fell across the Western Front, when villages, towns and cities erupted in noisy, spontaneous relief, the country will come together to salute the sacrifice of the First World War generation.
There will be joyous ringing bells and the sober call of bugles. Beacons and torches lighting all corners of the land. People will give thanks. In churches and cathedrals, those gathered will remember.
Stilling the nation at 11am will be that great rectangle of Portland stone in Whitehall. The Cenotaph has long given succour to those whose husbands, sons, brothers, friends and relations died in the war without a known grave. Today, the eyes of the world will be upon it.
They will also fall on Big Ben, silent since August last year due to renovation, but whose bell will sound 11 times at 11am, reflecting the same day 100 years ago when it rang again after four years.
Major ceremonies in Scotland will include a service at St Giles’ Cathedral in Edinburgh this morning, followed by World War One Remembered at Glasgow Cathedral in the afternoon, attended by the Princess Royal.
The act of commemoration began yesterday as:
The Queen, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and the Duke and Duchess of Sussex joined the annual Festival of Remembrance at the Royal Albert Hall in London;
More than 500 people attended a candlelit vigil at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire;
Prince Harry laid a wreath at Twickenham before England’s rugby match against New Zealand;
The leaders of former enemies France and Germany came together at the site where the agreement that ended the war was signed.
When the nation falls silent today, Grace Jones, at 112 the oldest person in the country, will reflect not only on the pain the war wrought but also on the optimism of its end.
Yesterday, she recalled the day 100 years ago when peace broke out. ‘There were people with Union Jacks, screaming and laughing, and singing,’ she said. ‘My eldest sister took me down where the cars were – there were no cars where I lived – to see the people dancing all in the road and on the tram cars, the open ones, singing away. It was lovely.’
Few at the time were untouched by grief. Grace, of Liverpool, experienced harrowing loss and this morning, as well as remembering the Armistice celebrations, she will bring to mind the brother she idolised, Tom, who died at Gallipoli.
‘He was a lovely brother, that was a very sad time,’ she said. ‘[My father] went upstairs to his own room, I crept up after him. He was just sitting there crying. It was a big loss to him, his only son.’
On the eve of the commemorations, the Queen led senior Royals at the annual Festival of Remembrance, which included a performance from Sir Tom Jones.
Earlier Theresa May, who on Friday was in Belgium to honour those who died at the Somme, paid a personal tribute to a relative, saying: ‘I will think of Hubert Grant, my father’s cousin who fought and died at Passchendaele at the age of just 19, but also the millions of sacrifices made for the security and peace of our continent.’
Yesterday was a day of unity. German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron came together at the site 48 miles north of Paris where the Armistice was signed.
Elsewhere, other world leaders paid their respects in France but one man was conspicuously absent, and remained in his hotel room.
Donald Trump was already in a bad mood when Air Force One landed in Paris on Friday night because Mr Macron had upset him, but then cancelled plans to visit an American cemetery due to bad weather – a move that prompted widespread disbelief.
When the world’s attention switches to Britain today, one of the most poignant images will be the sand tributes to the fallen, including the poet Wilfred Owen, etched on to 32 beaches across Britain and washed away as the tide comes in. ‘It’s a metaphor for life,’ said artist Jamie Wardley, who worked with film director Danny Boyle on the project.
‘It’s there and then it’s gone.’
PAYING THEIR RESPECTS: At the Albert Hall were, from left, the Duchess and Duke of Cambridge, Tim Laurence, Princess Anne, Prince Michael of Kent, the Queen, an unknown guest, the Duke of Kent, Prince Charles, Prince Edward and the Countess Of Wessex, the Duchess of Cornwall, Prince Andrew, and the Duchess and Duke of Sussex. In the next box are Theresa and Philip May
TRIBUTE: Laura Kitchin, 6, at the Garden of Remembrance in Edinburgh’s Princes Street yesterday