First World War Centenary: Lights go out at 10pm across Britain to mark outbreak of war

Tower Bridge, Blackpool Tower and Cardiff Castle will go dark

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The Independent Online

The Houses of Parliament, Tower Bridge, Cardiff Castle and other British landmarks will go dark tonight to commemorate the moment the UK entered the First World War.

Everyone in the country is being invited to take part in the Lights Out project by leaving just a single light on or candle burning for an hour from 10pm tonight.

It is inspired by the quote by the then Foreign Secretary, Sir Edward Grey, on the eve of Britain’s entry into the first ever global conflict: “The lamps are going out all over Europe, we shall not see them lit again in our lifetime.”

In his memoirs, he recalled making the remark while standing at the window of his office in the Foreign Office on 3 August watching the lights being lit along the Mall as dusk fell.

More than 650 events are happening across the UK, including vigils and walks, for the initiative organised by the Government-sponsored 14-18 NOW programme.

The Royal Shakespeare Company, BBC and even GCHQ (in one section) are among those taking part in Lights Out.

A candlelit vigil of prayer, readings and music is being held in Westminster Abbey and separate events are scheduled in Canterbury and other cathedrals and churches.

Organisers have hailed Lights Out it as “one of the most dramatic UK-wide events ever organised”, where people will join a “shared moment of reflection” to commemorate the start of one of the darkest periods in our history.

It is one of many events taking place today marking the centenary of Britain’s involvement in the First World War, including services at Glasgow Cathedral and at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission cemetery in Mons, Belgium.

David Cameron said: “A hundred years ago today Britain entered the First World War and we are marking that centenary to honour those who served, to remember those who died, and to ensure that the lessons learnt live with us forever.

“It is right to remember the extraordinary sacrifice of a generation and we are all indebted to them because their most enduring legacy is our liberty.”

Germany declared war on France and invaded Belgium on 3 August 1914 and when the country ignored Britain’s ultimatum to withdraw by the end of the following day, the Government declared war.

More than 9 million soldiers were killed in the ensuring conflict, including around 800,000 British soldiers and more than 120,000 civilians who died as a result of military action, malnutrition and disease.