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Prime Minister announces Government plans to mark First World War Centenary

Imperial War Museum refurbishment and a series of national events among ways the nation will commemorate anniversary.

David Cameron today set out the Government’s plans to mark the centenary of the start of the First World War (WW1) in 2014.

These plans include a £35 million refurbishment of the WW1 galleries at the Imperial War Museum London (IWM); a project made possible due to an extra £5 million from the Treasury announced today. This additional money will be paid for from fines imposed on financial services firms for misconduct.

And 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 IWM, 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 IWM, but will encompass support for a multitude of other initiatives, large and small, as they come together in the months and years to come.

A truly national commemoration

The four-year programme will include:

  • National commemorative events to mark the anniversary of the start of WW1 in 2014, 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 WW1 galleries at the IWM
  • An enduring educational legacy costing £5.3 million, jointly funded by the Department for Education and the Department for Communities and Local Government, which will allow pupils and teachers from every maintained secondary school in England the chance to go on a tour of the great battlefields and take part in remembrance ceremonies on the Western Front.
  • 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 £1million 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.

£50m commitment

The Prime Minister said:

In total, over £50 million 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 for ever. And that is exactly what we will do.

Culture secretary Maria Miller said:

All of us, young and old, have a connection to the First World War, either through our own family history, the heritage of our local communities or because of its long term impact on society and the world we live in today. 

It is absolutely right that we mark its centenary and do so not simply with the solemnity that such an anniversary demands, but with a programme containing a significant educational element, so that our young people have the chance to appreciate the enormity of what happened at the beginning of the last century, and its continuing echoes in our lives today.

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