First World War centenary: Armistice events around the UK

A selection of events going on around the country as the UK prepares to commemorate 100 years since the end of World War One

20,000 people will march past the Cenotaph in London to mark the centenary
(Image credit: Chris J Radcliffe/AFP/Getty Images)

This weekend, countries around the world will fall silent to commemorate one of the most significant anniversaries of global military history: 100 years since the end of the First World War.

Today, Prime Minister Theresa May and the Belgian PM Charles Michel laid wreaths at the graves of the first and last British soldiers to be killed during the Great War at a cemetery near Mons, Belgium.

The graves lie opposite one other, in what May called a “poignant symbol that brings home the eternal bond between them and every member of the armed forces who gave their lives”.

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The Guardian reports that “between the firing of the bullet that killed 16-year-old John Parr from Finchley, north London, in August 1914” and the “ringing out of the shot that struck down 40-year-old George Edwin Ellison from Leeds on 11 November 1918”, around 750,000 British men had been killed in what at the time was the deadliest conflict the world had ever seen.

May said: “We remember the heroes who lost their lives in the horror of the trenches. As the sun sets on one hundred years of remembrance, we will never forget their sacrifice.”

For those wishing to pay their respects to those killed in the “War to End All Wars”, here is a selection of events going on around the country.

Armistice Day 2018

Fittingly falling on Remembrance Sunday, this year's Armistice Day will be commemorated with events up and down the country marking one hundred years to the day since hostilities ceased and the guns finally fell silent.

The annual Remembrance Sunday celebrations in London will be expanded this year, with families of First World War veterans allowed to march past the Cenotaph to commemorate the sacrifice of their loved ones, with an extra 10,000 places allocated to the relatives of those who died in the conflict.

Church bells will also ring out across the UK throughout the day, just as they did in 1918 to mark the end of the war. Government funding is supporting the Central Council of Church Bell Ringers to recruit 1,400 ringers – the number lost during the war.

Swansea remembers

Perhaps the most ambitious commemorative event in the country, the Welsh city of Swansea has been transformed this autumn as part of a major five-day theatrical experience.

Drawing comparisons with The Passion in Port Talbot, when Hollywood actor Michael Sheen took over the town for three days with a live theatre production, Nawr Yr Arwr/Now The Hero, from Swansea-born artist Marc Rees, is using art, prose and performance to tell its story.

The event is the Welsh highlight of the final year of the 14-18 NOW programme, the UK's official arts programme for the World War One centenary, and is also the opening event of the 2018 Swansea International Festival.

Experiencing the war afresh

BBC Two will broadcast the new critically-acclaimed film They Shall Not Grow Old from Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson on 11 November.

The Oscar-winning director spent months in the Imperial War Museum archive scouring through old and never-before-seen footage which has then been digitally restored, hand-coloured and set to original audio.

Speaking to the BBC, Jackson said the transformed footage is "beyond anything we've ever seen before", adding: "The faces of the men just jump out at you. It's the faces, it's the people, that come to life in this film.

“It's the human beings that were actually there, that were thrust into this extraordinary situation that defined their lives” he said.

At the Imperial War Museum, which jointly commissioned the film, a series of exhibitions reflecting on the horror of the conflict will include Generation Hope: Life After The First World War, examining upheaval of the decade after the war.

Beyond the Deepening Shadow

The Tower of London’s moat will be getting lit as it is transformed by an eight-day commemorative takeover as part of a visual arts piece entitled Beyond the Deepening Shadow.

According to Time Out, the installation “will change on a daily basis as candles are added between 5pm and 9pm”, and the display “will be completed on Sunday when thousands of individual flames turn the moat into a circle of light”.

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