Yesterday the Prime Minister David Cameron unveiled in a speech at the Imperial War Museum details about how the United Kingdom will commemorate the centenary of the outbreak of World War One in 2014.
All of us have had a relative that either fought in the Great War, died in the Great War or who survived the horrors of battle. I have visited locations where key battles took place almost 100 years ago; the sense of history when one is at the location is really rather moving. To witness first hand the thousands of graves belonging to servicemen who paid the ultimate sacrifice is incredibly gripping and one can almost imagine the men in the trenches ready to go over the top. Many men who were killed were under 25, indeed one of my own relatives was killed in Ypres aged just 19.
The key plans outlined by David Cameron:
- There will be a £35 million refurbishment of World War One galleries at the Imperial War Museum which will open in 2014.
- National commemorative events will be held across the country to mark the centenary of the start of WW1.
- There are plans to send one teacher and two student ambassadors from every school in England to visit WW1 battlefields at a cost of £5.3 million.
- A £1 million grant from the Lottery Fund to support HMS Caroline (the last surviving WW1 warship) this grant will secure her future in Belfast.
- £6 million community projects fund also from the Heritage Lottery Fund for a project which will enable young people to conserve and share WW1 heritage.
These plans should be welcomed by everyone. It’s important that we as a nation honour and remember the millions that were killed in battle and those that were injured. The Great War of course relied on Kitchener’s volunteer Army followed by conscription, and the men that were required to fight were ordinary men with ordinary jobs. For me there’s a short poem that sums up the mindset of these men and that is a poem by Wilfred Gibson titled ‘Back’.
They ask me where I’ve been,
And what I’ve done and seen,
But what can I reply
Who know it wasn’t I,
But someone just like me,
Who went across the sea
And with my head and hands
Killed men in foreign lands…
Though I must bear the blame,
Because he bore my name.
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