Victoria Cross as it appears on Commonwealth War Graves Commission headstones, courtesy of Wikipedia

British Government announces commemoration plans which will "put Victoria Cross Winners at the heart of the Centenary"

Posted on on 04 August 2013
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The Department for Culture, Media and Sport has announced today that it plans "to put Victoria Cross Winners at the heart of plans to mark the Centenary".

A major announcement today outlined the British Government's plans to mark the First World War Centenary, which include:

1. Plans to make recipients of the Victoria Cross from the conflict central to commemorations.

2. Restoration and refurbishment of war memorials.

3. Details of commemorations across the UK.

4. A "Centenary Apprenticeships" scheme to involve companies which existed 100 years ago.

Britain will also commemorate the centenaries of: the Gallipoli landings; the Battle of Jutland; the first day of the Battle of the Somme; the first day of Passchendaele; and Armistice Day, with details of the commemorations to be released at a later date.

1. Victoria Cross

First World War recipients of the Victoria Cross, Britain's highest military honour, are set to feature prominently in the Government's plans to commemorate the conflict over the four year period of 2014-2018.

The Communities Secretary, Eric Pickles, announced that a national competition will be launched to design specially commissioned paving stones in honour of those who were awarded the Victoria Cross.

The paving stones will be presented to local councils where recipients of the Victoria Cross were born.

The Communities Secretary said that "laying paving stones to mark these Victoria Cross heroes will ensure that there is a permanent memorial to all the fallen who fought for our country and the competition is a great way for people from all corners of the United Kingdom to get involved".

The winning design will be announced by October 2013.

The Government has emphasised the initiative will honour "local heroes", by providing an "enduring legacy" and "greater understanding" of Britain's experience of the First World War.

The Victoria Cross and George Cross Association has welcomed the centrality that Victoria Cross recipients will play during the Centenary as an opportunity to commemorate these "gallant individuals".

2. Restoration and refurbishment of war memorials

It was also announced today that "more help" would be provided to communities wishing to restore local war memorials for the Centenary.

A new website will be developed which will "make sure people across the country can get funding and support so that all First World War memorials are in good condition for November 2018".

The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, Maria Miller, said that:

"The First World War had a fundamental effect on the course of our history. It also saw nearly a million British military and civilian deaths, heroes from communities across the Commonwealth who fought for King and Country".

"But as time passes, the living links that connect that terrible time and the present day have dwindled. So it is really important that we mark the centenary which, saw some of the darkest days in our history, and remind everyone of the sacrifice that was made - and how it has affected all our lives today".

3. Commemorations across the UK

The Government has highlighted the role that music and culture will play in Britain's efforts to mark the Centenary of the outbreak of the First World War.

The BBC will reflect the 100 year anniversary of the conflict in their planning for the Proms season next year.

In Wales, the Eisteddford (a Welsh cultural festival) in Llanelli will feature events with a Centenary theme.

The Special Representative for Wales on the UK Centenary Advisory Board, Professor Sir Deian Hopkin, said that as the Eisteddford coincides with the 100 year anniversary of the British declaration of war on Germany in August 2014, the First World War will have a "strong resonance" at the festival.

It has also been announced that a multi-faith vigil will take place in cathedrals and churches across the country.

The Church of England sees 4th August 2014 as "an important opportunity for people to come together in prayerful reflection as they remember a moment which impacted on every British family".

As such, the Church will encourage all of its 16,000 parish churches to hold a prayer vigil on the 4th August.

Northern Ireland will hold an interdenominational service of commemoration at Belfast Cathedral on the 4th August 2014.

The Special Representative for Northern Ireland who sits on the UK Centenary Advisory Board, Jeffrey Donaldson MP, stated that the service would "recognise the beginning of the war and the voluntary service so willingly provided by people from across the island of Ireland and from both traditions".

Mr. Donaldson highlighted that the theme of "remembrance and reconciliation", within Northern Irish communities, between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, as well as broader British-Irish relations, would be central to the Northern Irish Centenary programme.

The Government has stated that these plans to mark the conflict are "an invitation to everyone to play a part in the Centenary that is a truly fitting commemoration of this world-altering event".

In a separate announcement today, the Heritage Lottery Fund gave details of Centenary projects from across the country which have successfully applied for financial support from the Fund.

4. Centenary Apprenticeships

A campaign to get 100 employers signed up to a new scheme - "Centenary Apprenticeships" - was also launched today.

The scheme aims "to give young people the unique opportunity to be part of an important commemoration while also acquiring skills that are valuable and relevant today".

The Government plans to involve companies which existed 100 years ago, "who focus on crafts with a modern application", to join the scheme within 100 days.

The Minister for Further Education, Skills and Lifelong Learning, Matthew Hancock, highlighted that trades such as stonemasonry and clock-making originated from centuries old trades, "so it will be fitting to mark 100 years since the start of the First World War with Apprenticeships in skills that existed at the time".

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport is expected to release further details about Centenary commemoration plans in the coming year.

Source: Department for Culture, Media and Sport press release

Date of press release: 04/08/2013

Posted by: Daniel Barry, Centenary News