This last week has seen centenary commemorations take place across Europe, with ceremonies to look back and remember those who gave their lives for peace and freedom.
In the UK, Monday the 4th of August marked 100 years since their declaration of war on Germany which sparked a four year conflict and claimed the lives of millions. Ceremonies were held all over the UK in remembrance of those who lost their lives, with a strong participation of the ‘Lights Out’ event which concluded the day, where lights from homes, business and public buildings were switched off and replaced by a single candle from 10pm to 11pm as an hour of commemoration and tribute to when the war was officially declared. Westminster Abbey held a candle-lit vigil during this hour, as well as iconic establishments such as Downing Street, Blackpool Tower and even the Houses of Parliament, all of whom were plunged into darkness to mark this significant event.
Throughout the day there were more ceremonies all over Europe, with services beginning in Liege, where over 50 heads of state gathered to pay their respects and share their thoughts on the journey all nations involved in the fighting have made in the last century. Perhaps one of the most interesting and thought-provoking places of rest is the St Symphorien Military Cemetery. Located just outside Mons, this garden of remembrance was opened by the Germans in 1917, where a German soldier promised the Belgium land owner that the area would be used to bury German and British Commonwealth soldiers equally. That promise was kept, and now contains around 500 soldiers from both sides of the conflict, side by side at their final resting place.
This idea of harmony brings in a much stronger value, an outcome from over four years of fighting and 100 years of living side by side – reconciliation. Once sworn enemies, now allies, the incomprehensible loss of life for both sides has helped grow and nurture a strong bond of friendship and cooperation between these world powers. Those brave men who gave the ultimate sacrifice in the hope for freedom achieved their goal and so much more, allowing the opportunity for understanding and forgiveness to help us push forward and achieve greater things for future generations.
“’The fact that the Presidents of Germany and Austria are here today, and that other nations – then enemies – are here too, bears testimony to the power of reconciliation. Not only is war between us unthinkable, but former adversaries have worked together for three generations to spread and entrench democracy, prosperity and the rule of law across Europe, and to promote our shared values around the world.” Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, Allies Memorial
This combination of remembrance and learning is something that people of all ages should take part in to learn these valuable lessons and never forget the inconceivable bravery of those who fought.
Whether it be a geography trip through France, a journey round Belgium on a band tour, or even a history outing to see the impact on the other side of the war in Germany, there are many ways in which you can work with Rayburn Tours to commemorate the centenary of WWI and continue this learning process with your students. There are a host of visits available to work into any itinerary on your trip to one of these historical, war-torn destinations and immerse your group in the events of the Great War.