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The day’s events are sombre commemorations of the day Britain and her Empire entered the Great War. Representatives from Great Britain, Europe and across the world have come together in London on this historic day to remember and honour the sacrifices made by our forebears. On this day one hundred years ago most were enjoying their private lives and occupations, unaware of the catastrophe that was to befall so many families in towns, villages and countryside not just in Britain, but as far afield as Empire countries of New Zealand, Australia, India, Canada, African territories, and Islands throughout the world’s oceans. Rarely does an occasion arise of such daunting significance.

On this day, one hundred years ago, with hostilities already under way in mainland Europe, our Country was poised to act in protection of a small state, created less than a hundred years before. A complex chain of European events starting in Sarajevo had led to the issue of Belgium’s independence, guaranteed by Britain and others many decades before, which was imminently threatened with invasion. Parliament had been addressed. The British Empire was poised to respond. His Majesty King George V was to issue the Royal Proclamation mobilising our Armed Forces for War.

Our Tribute today starts with those who fought for us -  at Royal Hospital Chelsea whose former residents spent four long years on the Western Front and the other Theatres of The Great War. We slowly pass The Houses of Parliament, and The Cenotaph in Whitehall - a daily reminder for all with its solemn grandeur. Courtesy of The Foreign and Commonwealth Office, who have generously contributed the entire expense of Lancaster House as their contribution to the Great War Centenary Parade, we meet  together here in all its splendour next to Buckingham Palace representing all the strands of our democracy, the Crown, Parliament and Departments of Government including the War Office. Finally we witness and learn of the sacrifices of the many and the course events took at The Imperial War Museum built as a lasting reminder to the conflict.

It is these institutions that we bring together in our Commemoration, linking them as our journey today takes us into The Great War, the name that was used from the very start of the conflict. For it became a great, mechanised and industrial war on a scale never before witnessed in the world. As a country we still live with its outcome. It has shaped our island, our society and our families ever since. Even the Royal family changed its name in its wake.

Those who saw out those weeks and days over the early summer of 1914  had a terrible choice to make and Foreign Secretary Sir Edward Grey, Prime Minister Herbert Asquith, the Cabinet and The Houses of Parliament were staring into an unknown abyss as the British Government ratified the Treaty guaranteeing Belgium’s independence in the face of the invader. With no agreement to withdraw being received from the German Ambassador, we were at a state of War at 11.00 p.m. on 4th August 1914.

One hundred years ago this day marked the end of an era. Ever since, the memories, the faded photographs, the medals and letters have been quietly passed down through subsequent generations with pride and tears.

At the going down of the sun, and in the morning, we will remember them.

Nicholas Pellett

The Great War Centenary Parade

Harry Patch was the last surviving British Tommy to fight on the Front Line

Harry served in The Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry in the Trenches at the

Battle of Passchendaele in 1917.  
He died in 2009 at the age of 111 years, one month, one week and one day.

The Great War Centenary Parade is dedicated to all Tommies and their families.

Harry Patch.jpg