‘Lights Out’ across Britain as powerful images show country going dark in First World War commemorations

The event arranged by the Royal British Legion called on households and landmarks to leave a single light shining in memory of the dead
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These extraordinary images show lights going out across Britain last night as the country united to mark the eve of the First World War 100 years ago.

Landmarks including the Houses of Parliament, Tower Bridge and St Paul’s Cathedral all went dark from 10pm, as the UK was urged to leave just one light on or candle burning for an hour approaching the declaration of war.

The “Lights Out” project, organised by the Royal British Legion, was inspired by a famous comment made by the then Foreign Secretary Sir Edward Grey, shortly before the war began on 4 August 1914.

“The lamps are going out all over Europe,” Sir Edward said. “We shall not see them lit again in our lifetime.”

The lines were also at the centre of a service in London's Westminster Abbey later on Monday, where candles went out one by one until only a burning oil lamp remained at the Grave of the Unknown Warrior.

At 11pm the lamp was extinguished, marking the exact time Britain entered the war.

Around 17 million soldiers and civilians were killed across Europe in the First World War from 1914 to 1918. More than one million of those were soldiers from Britain and its colonies.

As well as the Lights Out project, the centenary was marked last night by a single bright beam of light shone up into the clouds from Victoria Tower Gardens.

Video: London falls dark for First World War Centenary

The installation called “spectra” was created by the Japanese artist Ryoji Ikeda and commissioned by 14-18 NOW, the official cultural programme for the centenary. It will fade away as the sun rises over the London skyline on 11 August.

Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London, said in a statement: “The light that 'spectra' throws up into the night sky is a unifying point; it echoes how the First World War affected all Londoners, but also how they and the rest of the country came together, standing united during those dark days.”