WW1: Let us remember - whether enemy or friend

There's no agreement about what the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War is to mark, when events should take place, and whether it is a celebration, or a wake

Share

The most destructive war the world had seen and the first genuinely world war began exactly 99 years ago. Considerable effort has already been expended by those nations who fought in it on how best to mark that centenary. The British have been anticipating it almost from the moment the war ended in 1918. The Germans are finding it very difficult and would sooner close their eyes and wake up in 2018 (when a far more painful centenary will be even closer), while the Americans have barely begun to think about the war which they only entered in 1917, and which bitterly divided their country.

Britain is also deeply divided over how to mark the centenary. Some historians see the war as a disaster for Britain, while others like Correlli Barnett and Max Hastings are fed up with the focus on the disasters at the Somme and Ypres and point instead to the rapid British advances in the final “100 days”. Some believe the centenary should be primarily a British affair, while others want it to include those nations against whom it fought.

Disagreement extends to the date the war broke out. Was it 28 July 1914, when Austria declared war on Serbia? Or 1 August when Germany declared war on Russia? Or 3 August when Germany declared war on France? Or 4 August when Britain declared war on Germany?

In short, there is no agreement about what the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War is to mark, when any events should take place, and whether it is a celebration, or a wake. With only 52 weeks to go, the time for debate is running out. So I have a proposal – that two minutes silence be held on Monday 4 August 2114 at 11am in the UK. The whole nation should be encouraged to participate in this silence, which should extend to all participating nations in the war.

In France, the silence would be at 12 noon, as it would in Belgium and Germany, Turkey would mark it at 1pm, the Russians at 3pm and the Australians from 7 to 9pm, according to their time zones. New Zealand, whose soldiers fought so bravely at Gallipoli, alongside the Australians, would have their two minutes silence at 11pm.

A memorial event should be held at the Royal Albert Hall, to be broadcast across the world. Young people from every participating nation would make up the audience and the finest musicians from each nation join together to play a suitable piece of music. It could be Beethoven’s 9th Symphony, a powerful celebration of life culminating in the joyful singing of Friedrich Schiller’s “Ode to Joy”. No conductor would be more apt, because of his work on reconciliation, than Daniel Barenboim.

All nations on earth need to mark the anniversary at the beginning of the centenary, not in the middle, or the end. The lessons from that terrible war have still to be fully learnt.

Anthony Seldon’s ‘Public Schools and The Great War’ is published in November

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Read Next
An Indian bookseller waits for customers at a roadside stall on World Book and Copyright Day in Mumbai  

Novel translation lets us know what is really happening in the world

Boyd Tonkin
 

Nature Studies: The decline and fall of the nightingale, poetry’s most famous bird

Michael McCarthy
Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine