News story

Plans to mark 100 years since the beginning of the First World War in 2014 announced

This news article was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

The historic centenary is to be commemorated by a 4-year programme of national acts of remembrance, UK-wide cultural initiatives and educational opportunities.

A service of commemoration for Commonwealth leaders in Glasgow Cathedral will start the series of national events to mark the 100th anniversary of the First World War in 2014.

Culture Secretary Maria Miller announced details of the 4-year plan today, which is to include national acts of remembrance and a scheme of Great War battlefield visits for schoolchildren, together with an extensive UK-wide cultural programme.

Marking the beginning of the First World War

The opening day of the centenary on 4 August 2014 will focus on 3 events:

  • a wreath-laying service at Glasgow’s Cenotaph following the special service for Commonwealth leaders at Glasgow Cathedral
  • an event at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission St Symphorien Military Cemetery in Mons, Belgium – which has an equal number of British and German soldiers, and is where the first and last Commonwealth casualties of the war are believed to be buried
  • a candlelit vigil of prayer and penitence at Westminster Abbey finishing at 11pm – the moment war was declared

The centrepiece of the commemorations will be the reopening of the Imperial War Museum (IWM) London following the £35 million refurbishment of the First World War galleries. The IWM London was founded in 1917 to record the then still-continuing conflict.

Other activities in the 4-year programme include:

  • national acts of remembrance to mark the first day of the Battle of the Somme (2016) and Armistice Day (2018)
  • an enduring educational legacy funded with £5.3 million from the Department for Education and the Department for Communities and Local Government, which will allow 2 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 £15 million from the Heritage Lottery Fund, including a new £6 million community project fund 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 £1 million from the National Heritage Memorial Fund to support HMS Caroline, the last surviving warship from the Battle of Jutland – the ship will 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

£10 million cultural programme

There will also be a £10 million programme of cultural events as part of the centenary commemorations over the 4 years.

Jenny Waldman, the Creative Producer for London 2012, has been appointed director of this programme and will work with cultural organisations and partners across Britain to deliver it. She will report to a Centenary Cultural Programme Board, chaired by Vikki Heywood CBE, Chairman of the RSA and former Executive Director of the Royal Shakespeare Company, and including Tony Hall, Director General of the BBC.

An expert advisory panel, chaired by Maria Miller, will oversee the nationwide programme of events and educational initiatives.

Members include former Chiefs of the Defence Staff Admiral Lord Boyce, General Lord Dannatt, Field Marshal Lord Guthrie and Air Chief Marshal ‘Jock’ Stirrup, and novelists Pat Barker and Sebastian Faulks. Dr Andrew Murrison MP, the Prime Minister’s special representative in the planning for the centenary, is also a member of the panel.

Their remit is to provide expertise, innovation and advice for the creation of commemorations worthy of the historic centenary of the First World War.

Maria Miller said:

On 4 August 1914 we entered the war – a war like no other the world had seen. It is right we remember and mark the centenary of this momentous day in the world’s history, bringing its importance alive for younger generations and remembering the price that was paid by all involved.

Further information

  • Find out more about the UK’s approach to marking the centenary at the government’s new First World War centenary website,
  • Find out about the network of local, regional, national and international non-for-profit groups and organisations with plans to commemorate the centenary in the First World War Centenary Partnership, led by IWM.