Remembrance service at Liege

German President, French President, Prince William and King of Belgium speak at Liège remembrance event

Posted on on 04 August 2014
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The remembrance event, at the Cointe Allies’ War Memorial, with its striking 75 metre tower, was attended by 50 heads of state - commemorating the start of the First World War 100 years ago today.

The first event of the morning had been at L’Abbaye Saint Laurent in Liège – where dignitaries had been met by King Philippe of the Belgians.

The leaders then went to Cointe for a one hour service with speeches, music from the Belgian Royal Air Force band, wreath laying and a minute’s silence.

During the event, Germany’s Federal President Joachim Gauck said that the First World War had begun with what he described as “Germany’s completely unjustifiable invasion of neutral Belgium”.

He talked about the reasons for the invasion: “It only followed military logic, and it became apparent on the very first day of the war that ... the standards of civilisation had been rendered null and void.”

And he added:  “Outside Germany, people were horrified by the conduct of the German troops, particularly by their treatment of civilians and their attacks on cultural heritage.”

His speech ended with a reference to the European Union: “Belgium, the home of Europe’s institutions, is a particularly appropriate place to praise European unity. Europe is now governed by the strength of the law rather than by the law of the strong.”

As well as the German President, French President Francois Hollande, the King of Belgium, and Britain’s Prince William also give short speeches.

The platform at the event with European leaders and members of the British and Belgian royal familes

Speaking to the European leaders, Prince William said: “We were enemies more than once in the last century, and today we are friends and allies”.

He added: "The peace that we here enjoy together as allies and partners does not simply mean no more bloodshed – it means something deeper than that. 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." 

The Belgian King said: “Peace is what our grandparents longed for with all their might. And their hopes are now our reality. Let us cherish what has been achieved and continue to build upon it.

And French President Francois Hollande warned: "The risk now is that we rediscover those national egotisms, those populisms, those xenophobias. That's why Europe … cannot grow weary, and must, above all, never become tired of peace."

The laying of a wreath by King Philippe of Belgium

The service was covered live on TV; and there were giant screens replaying it in the Liège city centre.

The leaders then went to the Liège Hotel de Ville – for an appearance on a balcony and a fly past by the Belgian Red Devils.

See also in Centenary News:

St Symphorien commemorations marking First World War Centenary.

Posted by: CN Editor, reporting from Liège

Photos copyright Centenary News