David Cameron promises 'truly national commemoration' to mark First World War centenary

The Prime Minister said there would be events to mark 100 years since the outbreak of war in 2014, Armistice Day in 2018, and the dates of major battles in between.

David Cameron today promised a “truly national commemoration” to mark the centenary of the First World War.

The Prime Minister said there would be events to mark 100 years since the outbreak of war in 2014, Armistice Day in 2018, and the dates of major battles in between.

There will also be a £5 million educational programme for school pupils, including trips to the battlefields, and support for an overhaul of the Imperial War Museum.

Speaking at the museum in south London, Mr Cameron said an advisory board of former defence secretaries, chiefs of staff and military specialists would bring together ideas for the commemorations.

“Our ambition is a truly national commemoration worthy of this historic centenary,” he said.

“A commemoration that captures our national spirit in every corner of the country, from our schools and workplaces, to our town halls and local communities.

“A commemoration that, like the Diamond Jubilee celebrations this year, says something about who are as a people. Remembrance must be the hallmark of our commemorations.”

The Heritage Lottery Fund is also supporting work by young people to “conserve, explore and share local heritage of the First World War”.

Some £50 million was being spent on the commemorations in total, Mr Cameron said.

The commemorations will include the centenary of the first day of conflict on August 4, 2014, the start of the Battle of the Somme on July 1 2016, and further events to mark Jutland, Gallipoli, Passchendaele and Armistice Day in 2018.

Mr Cameron said: "The Centenary will also provide the foundations upon which to build an enduring cultural and educational legacy to put young people front and centre in our commemoration and to ensure that the sacrifice and service of 100 years ago is still remembered in 100 years time."

The Heritage Lottery Fund was inviting more applications for support to mark First World War events, he said.

"Whether it's a series of friendly football matches to mark the 1914 Christmas Day Truce, or the campaign by the Greenhithe branch of the Royal British Legion to sow the Western Front's iconic poppies here in the UK, let's get out there and make this centenary a truly national moment in every community in our land," Mr Cameron said.

An advisory board on the commemorations, chaired by Culture Secretary Maria Miller, will include former head of the Armed Forces Sir Jock Stirrup, former head of the Army Sir Richard Dannatt and former defence secretaries Tom King and George Robertson.

It will also include former naval doctor Andrew Murrison, a defence minister appointed as the Prime Minister's special representative on the commemorations last year, historian Hew Strachan and novelist Sebastian Faulks.

The Prime Minister said it was important to mark the First World War because of the "sheer scale of sacrifice", with more than 16 million dead.

"This was the extraordinary sacrifice of a generation. It was a sacrifice they made for us, and it is right that we should remember them," he said.

The war had also helped "make us who we are today", he said, pointing to subsequent advances in the emancipation of women, recognition for ethnic minorities and improvements in medicine.

He went on: "There is something about the First World War that makes it a fundamental part of our national consciousness.

"Put simply, this matters - not just in our heads, but in our hearts. It has an emotional connection. I feel it very deeply."

Mr Cameron said there was "something captivating" about the stories from the First World War.

PA

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