'Portuguese infantry unit on the march. Near Locon, 24 June 1917', courtesy of the Imperial War Museum, © IWM, Q 5537

President of Portugal's Centenary Commission speaks to Centenary News

Posted on centenarynews.com on 14 May 2014
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The President of Portugal’s First World War Centenary Commission, Lieutenant-General Mário de Oliveira Cardoso, has spoken to Centenary News about his country’s plans to mark the Centenary.

He identified preserving the “collective memory” of the conflict for young people today and for future generations as a key aim of Portugal’s Centenary plans.

“It is important to remind people of the hardships the Portuguese people went through and to honour the memory of those who fought and served, all of whom made sacrifices to defend what were perceived to be the country’s vital interests”.

He said that one of the most important reasons to educate people about the First World War “originates from the sense that the problems that led to the Great War are still unsettled and needs clarification. This clarification is a crucial step for us to be able to try and understand why Europe and the world are the way they are today”.

                         The official logo of Portugal's First World War Centenary Commission

Portugal entered the First World War on the side of the Allies in 1916. Although Britain (as England) and Portugal have the oldest alliance in history (enacted in 1386 by the Treaty of Windsor and maintained by NATO membership today), Portugal initially remained neutral.

However, German and Portuguese forces had been involved in skirmishes in Africa from 1914 up until the official declaration of war by Germany on Portugal on the 9th March 1916.

The declaration came after Portugal agreed to a British request to intern Austro-Hungarian and German ships docked in Lisbon.

Portuguese forces fought in Europe as well as in Africa. The Battle of La Lys, which began on the 9th April 1918, saw huge losses for Portugal as the Germans broke through their lines.

Highlights

- October 2014 will see a ‘National Tribute to the Portuguese War Effort', described by Lieutenant-General de Oliveira Cardoso as a “high point” in national plans to commemorate the conflict.

- 7th October: A formal sitting in the Assembly of the Republic (the Portuguese parliament) will see members discuss the First World War and the importance of the Centenary.

- 18th October: Ceremonies will be held at more than one hundred memorials across Portugal, paying homage to soldiers who fought in the First World War.

- Histories of the units which fought during the First World War will be researched and exhibited as part of efforts to commemorate soldiers at a local level.

-Throughout the Centenary, the war in Africa and Europe will be considered, with exhibitions, seminars and "cultural events"

- 2016: The Centenary of the formal declaration of war on Portugal will be marked with a television series exploring Portugal’s participation in the conflict.

- 9th April 2018: Centenary of the Battle of La Lys will see services of remembrance held across Portugal.

To find out more about Portugal's Centenary plans and to read the full Centenary News interview with Lieutenant-General Mário de Oliveira Cardoso, click here.

Posted by: Daniel Barry, Centenary News

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