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Plans set out to mark the centenary of the start of the First World War

Prime Minister David Cameron today set out the Government's plans to mark the centenary in 2014 of the start of the First World War.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government
Headstones in northern France

Some of the headstones marking the graves of 250 First World War soldiers in the Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery at Fromelles in northern France

These plans include a £35m refurbishment of the First World War Galleries at the Imperial War Museum London; a project made possible due to an extra £5m from the Treasury announced today. This additional money will be met by fines imposed on financial services firms for misconduct.

Culture Secretary Maria Miller will chair an expert advisory panel to oversee the programme and ensure that the centenary plans are delivered.

Speaking at the Imperial War Museum in London, an institution founded in 1917 to record the then still-continuing conflict, Mr Cameron said that he wanted to build a truly national commemoration, worthy of this historic centenary.

The Government’s principal partners in the commemorations will be the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Imperial War Museum, but will encompass support for a multitude of other initiatives, large and small, as they come together in the months and years to come.

The four-year programme will take the form of:

  • national commemorative events to mark the anniversary in 2014 of the start of the First World War, the first day of the Battle of the Somme (2016) and Armistice Day (2018). Other anniversaries across the period will also be marked in different ways.
  • the opening, in 2014, of refurbished First World War Galleries at the Imperial War Museum London.
  • an enduring educational legacy costing £5.3m, jointly funded by the Department for Education and the Department for Communities and Local Government, which will allow two student ambassadors, plus a teacher, from each maintained school in England to visit First World War battlefields and undertake research on people local to their school who fought in the War.
  • at least £15m from the Heritage Lottery Fund, including a new £6m community projects fund, announced today, to enable young people working in their communities to conserve, explore and share local heritage of the First World War.
  • a grant of up to £1m from the National Heritage Memorial Fund to support HMS Caroline, the last surviving warship from the First World War fleet. She will now have a secure future in Belfast, where thousands of people will be able to visit her and learn about her unique role in the First World War.

An advisory panel of unremunerated senior figures headed by Culture Secretary Maria Miller will be appointed to oversee this work and ensure that it is delivered effectively. Her board will offer independent oversight of the UK’s preparations for the centenary, a link with institutions beyond government, and the encouragement of private giving to centenary-related initiatives.

The Prime Minister said:

In total, over £50m is being committed to these centenary commemorations, and it is absolutely right that these commemorations should be given such priority.

As a twenty-year-old soldier wrote just a week before he died, ‘but for this war I and all the others would have passed into oblivion like the countless myriads before us… but we shall live for ever in the results of our efforts’.

Our duty with these commemorations is clear: to honour those who served, to remember those who died, and to ensure that the lessons learnt live with us forever. And that is exactly what we will do.

Published 11 October 2012