First World War Centenary: Glasgow switches from sporting triumph to sober recollection

 

Political Correspondent

From the ecstasy of sporting glory to the the hell and horror of remembered war.

After welcoming the world for almost two weeks of athletic contest at the Commonwealth Games, Glasgow fell quiet yesterday as locals and visitors reflected on a time when international rivalries had darker consquences.

At 9.30am, a half hour before the gathered dignitaries including Prince Charles David Cameron were fully seated in Glasgow Cathedral for a special service to mark the outbreak of the Great War, eight-year old Cooper Black from the nearby town of Cambuslang was already in place and proudly holding his ticket in George Square in the city centre.

 

Last year Cooper travelled to the Somme battlefield with his father and his sister Eva. He said he wanted to visit the square - the site of the main UK cenotaph commemoration - to “thank the soldiers because they fought for us.”

Along the line from the Black family - and wearing the bright yellow officials’ jacket that he had worn to the Games - was Alan Juleosi from the tiny South Pacific island state of Niue. He wished to pay his respects in person “because my grandfather joined up the day the war started.”

The Polynesian island, with a population of 1,190 is the size of small parish. But Alan’s grandfather, like others, joined the larger New Zealand force that sent its young men to Europe.

A few paces away, a Commonwealth athlete from the South Atlantic island of St Helena also paid his respects. If he had been born 100 years earlier, Lee Yoen might have signed up for one of the Scottish regiments with which his nation had ties and fought in the trenches, rather than travel to Europe to play badminton for his country.

People viewed wreaths laid at the cenotaph in George Square People viewed wreaths laid at the cenotaph in George Square (Getty) He admitted to “not listening in school” when the First World War was being taught. “But it interests me now.”

In the cathedral a few miles away, broadcaster Sir Trevor McDonald promised that over the next four years – the duration of the war – more would be heard of the “courage and suffering” of who those who fought and gave their lives.

There are dangers in such services of remembrance that war itself looks like it is being celebrated.

Inside the cathedral, there were evident efforts to prevent that. Acknowledgement of the “mixed feelings of the legacy” left by the conflict were stated; that more could have been done diplomatically to prevent it. Gordon Campbell, the Canadian High Commissioner, spoke of the “flaming wind of war”.

Ranjan Mathai, India’s High Commissioner, used the words of a Punjabi Rajpuyt soldier to describe the rendezvous with death and the horrific truths that those not on the frontline never fully appreciated at the time.  “Do not think this is war. This is not war. It is the ending of the world,” the soldier wrote.

Perhaps the most moving reading came from Joanne Thomson. Recently graduated from Glasgow’s Royal Conservatoire, she took on the role of the young wife of the Welsh poet Edward Thomas, who knew when waving goodbye to her officer husband, it would be the last time she would see him alive. In character and close to tears she said “there was nothing but the mist and snow and the silence of death.”

The 11 days of competition at Glasgow 2014 were timed to end the day before the centenary of the Great War. It ensured that representatives from across the Commonwealth were in Scotland to mark what one speaker called the “day the world changed … and the memory of which still haunts us.”

A former serviceman places a poppy to mark the centenary A former serviceman places a poppy to mark the centenary (Getty) However one army major in George Square, there to pay respects, but not part of the official service, remarked that although the lessons of the Great War are taught, it was “never the war to end all wars”. Conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan and elsewhere reveal that war remains an enduring political reflex, and is not always the end result of failed diplomacy.

In the square, the Duke of Rothesay – as the Prince of Wales in known in Scotland – laid the first wreath of the cenotaph ceremony. Further wreaths were gently placed by the Prime Minister, the Deputy PM, Nick Clegg, the Labour leader, Ed Milband, and the heads of the UK’s three devolved parliaments, including Alex Salmond, Scotland’s First Minister. Scores of Commonwealth representatives followed.

The pipes and drums of the Scots Guards, the band of the Parachute Regiment, and representatives of the army, Royal Navy and Royal Air Force, all stood silent. And as a lone bugler played the Last Post, two women in a corner of the square lifted a small home-made banner embroidered with the words “Lest we Forget”.

But we do. Less than a year after the Great War ended in 1919, the coalition government in Westminster ordered troops and tanks into George Square to quell angry trade union demonstrations demanding lower working hours to ease growing post-war unemployment.

A 4.5 Howitzer field gun was placed outside the City Chambers. David Cameron and Prince Charles stood in almost the same spot for the service’s march-past.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
News
Keith Fraser says we should give Isis sympathises free flights to join Isis (AFP)
news
Life and Style
Google celebrates the 126th anniversary of the Eiffel Tower opening its doors to the public for the first time
techGoogle celebrates Paris's iconic landmark, which opened to the public 126 years ago today
News
Cleopatra the tortoise suffers from a painful disease that causes her shell to disintegrate; her new prosthetic one has been custom-made for her using 3D printing technology
newsCleopatra had been suffering from 'pyramiding'
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Coachella and Lollapalooza festivals have both listed the selfie stick devices as “prohibited items”
music
Sport
Nigel Owens was targeted on Twitter because of his sexuality during the Six Nations finale between England and France earlier this month
rugbyReferee Nigel Owens on coming out, and homophobic Twitter abuse
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Web Designer / Front End Developer

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast expanding web managem...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey / South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey/ South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Recruitment Consultant / Account Manager - Surrey / SW London

£40000 per annum + realistic targets: Ashdown Group: A thriving recruitment co...

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor