First World War centenary: UK to stage events throughout 2018 to mark 100 years since end of conflict

With politics and sporting events likely to dominate much of the coming year, historians urge that the centenary of the First World War must not be overshadowed

May Bulman
Social Affairs Correspondent
Monday 01 January 2018 01:00 GMT
A poppy rests in the hand of a statue during the annual Armistice Day service at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire
A poppy rests in the hand of a statue during the annual Armistice Day service at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire

The New Year is upon us and there will be no shortage of stories and events to keep Britain on its toes in 2018, with everything from Brexit negotiations, Donald Trump and a politically charged World Cup in Russia dominating the national discourse.

But while politics and sporting events are likely to feature prominently in the headlines throughout much of the coming year, historians are urging Britons not to overlook a significant anniversary: the centenary of the end of the First World War.

Concerns have already been raised that sensitivities around the Brexit negotiations could mean the centenary of the Great War is not given due recognition. Sir Anthony Seldon warned on Friday that there is a danger that “the fear of offending one side or the other on Brexit will lead to the centenary being muted”.

But Britain is being encouraged to give it due recognition, with the Government announcing a series of commemorations to lead up to the centenary of the Armistice that brought the bloody conflict to an end.

Announcing the events, Culture Secretary Karen Bradley will say: “On this day 100 years ago, soldiers in the trenches welcomed in the New Year, unsure of what it would bring.

“Today we enter the final year of our commemorations, remembering the bravery of those who fought, lived and died in the First World War. We will continue to honour all those who served, died and were affected by the war both at home and overseas.

“On the centenary of the Armistice we will give thanks for peace and for those that returned, and remember the sacrifice of the 800,000 soldiers who died. This is the best tribute we can make.”

The events will include:

Ceremony to remember hero commander

On 28 March there will be a ceremony at the equestrian statue of General Ferdinand Foch at Lower Grosvenor Gardens in Victoria, London. It will mark his appointment as Supreme Allied Commander on the Western Front.

The move, which brought about coalition warfare that was a significant factor in the Allied military successes of summer 1918, followed the German “spring offensive” which pushed the British back to their 1914 lines in March 1918.

Service to mark Battle of Amiens

On 8 August a service will take place at Amiens Cathedral in France to mark the centenary of the Battle of Amiens and the subsequent “Hundred Days Offensive” which was a decisive point in the war.

Series of events on centenary of Armistice

On 11 November there will be a series of events to mark the centenary of the Armistice, including a commemorative service at St Symphorien Cemetery near Mons, Belgium, where the war began in 1914 and where the first and last casualties of the battle lie.

The National Service of Remembrance at London’s Cenotaph will follow traditional lines, as it remembers the fallen of all conflicts, but the march-past which follows will be expanded.

During the day, church and other bells will ring out as they did at the end of the First World War, and government funding is supporting the Central Council of Church Bell Ringers to recruit 1,400 ringers – the number lost during the war.

The day will end with a service at Westminster Abbey, London, along with others in Glasgow, Cardiff and Belfast, to give thanks for peace and those who returned.


During the year, a series of exhibitions will reflect on the impact the brutal killing fields of the First World War had in shaping the modern world, in the Imperial War Museum’s (IWM) Making A New World season.

It includes Generation Hope: Life After The First World War, examining upheaval of the decade after the war, at the IWM London.

Two parts of the landmark Blood Swept Lands And Seas Of Red display of 888,246 ceramic poppies will be installed at the IWM’s sites in London and Manchester, while artwork commissioned for a never-built post-war Hall of Remembrance will also be shown for the first time.

The programme of works and events aims to help people understand how the course of the war changed in 1918, to give thanks for peace and to remember the sacrifice of 800,000 soldiers who went to war and did not come home, the Government said.

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