Blackpool and the Fylde coast was plunged into darkness last night to honour those who gave their lives during the First World War.
Blackpool Council and Fylde Council both staged lights out and candlelight vigils to mark the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of the 1914-18 conflict.
Lights Out, a nationwide event which started at 10pm last night, involved major landmarks and people turning off their lights to reflect on those who perished in the war.
Blackpool Tower and Blackpool Pleasure Beach turned off The Tower and The Big One lights while councillors and residents held a candle-lit vigil at the town’s war memorial.
A vigil was also held at St Annes War Memorial in Ashton Gardens.
The events, which were held between 10pm and 11pm, coincided with similar commemorations across the UK as people remembered those who fell during the Great War.
At 11pm on August 4, 1914, Britain declared war on Germany, ushering in four years of darkness, despair and appalling tragedy.
Until the armistice was signed on November 11, 1918, millions of lives were lost, including 750,000 British and Commonwealth soldiers, in what was the bloodiest conflict the world had known.
The lights-out commemoration was a reference to then-foreign secretary Sir Edward Grey’s famous remark on the eve of the outbreak of war, when he said: “The lamps are going out all over Europe; we shall not see them lit again in our lifetime”.
It’s a time for private prayer and reflection
St Chad’s Church in Poulton held an open day to mark the centenary of the outbreak of the Great War. The church, on Ball Street, was open to the public from 8am to 11pm yesterday when people were encouraged to visit for a short time for private prayer, reflection and contemplation.
The event was organised by Churches Together in Poulton and Carleton.
A spokesman said it was a way to commemorate “this important day in our nation’s history”. They added the church was the ideal place to spend a short time reflecting on the events 100 years ago.
Library exhibition has been a ‘labour of love’
An exhibition honouring the war sacrifice of the men from Over Wyre has opened at Knott End Library.
Put together by members of the Knott End Family History Society, it lists the names of men killed in the 1914-1918 war from Knott End, Pilling, Hambleton, Out Rawcliffe, Stalmine and Preesall.
One of the organisers, Joan Morrison, said it had been a labour of love for the group who had been keen to have it ready for the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of the war.
She said: “We have worked hard on this for the past four months because we wanted to get it right for those who died and their families.
“We used the Commonwealth War Graves website to research and we have obtained the scrolls for the men who died sent out by King George V and we have around 60 on display.
“It is very enlightening.”
“The names, service numbers, ranks and regiments along with the dates of birth and death are displayed along with other material and photographs.
“We have got a few photographs of the men but in a period of 100 years families can move around a lot or have died out.
“We have a book for people to put down their thoughts and reflections and hope people will come along and add to the book which we hope will be stored at the library.”
The exhibition will run until August 29 and the group, which has 12 members, is hoping to do another one in four years time to mark the Armistice.
‘A sacrifice made by all’
Cadet groups from across the Fylde marked the 100th anniversary of Britain’s entry into the First World War in a poignant ceremony at Blackpool’s Cenotaph.
Members of Air, Sea, Army and Marine cadet groups stood watch over the war memorial– 100 years to the day after the outbreak of the war.
The group were also raising money for three charities which support modern-day veterans, including Blind Veterans UK, the national charity for vision impaired ex-service men and women.
The vigil was led by the 177 Air Training Corps, who are based at Blackpool Airport, and was attended by the Mayor of Blackpool Councillor Val Haynes and Mayor’s Consort Alan Haynes and the Vice Lord Lieutenant if Lancashire Colonel Alan Jolley with Councillor Chris Frain.
The group read out the name of one fallen soldier named on the memorial every two minutes a feat which took the entire day.
The names include two recipients of the Victoria Cross, one of the Military Cross and two Military Medal holders.
The original citations for these decorated servicemen were also read out along with their names, giving Blackpool residents an insight into the brave actions of the town’s First World War veterans.
Flight Lieutenant Andrew Nickson, who leads the cadets, said: “We wanted to recognise the sacrifice made by all those who served in the war a century ago, but also make sure that we could do something to help those from more recent conflicts – from the Second World War right up to Iraq and Afghanistan.
“The 177 has a long association with Blind Veterans UK, having taken part in the charity’s cadet challenges for years.
“Knowing that the money we raise will go to veterans who have served our country and are now suffering from sight loss is a huge inspiration for us.”
The cadets were also joined by blind veteran Matthew Rhodes, who lost his sight in a horrific motorbike accident while serving with the 1st Battalion, The Devonshire and Dorset Regiment.
Since losing his sight, 39-year-old Preston resident Matthew has gone on to discover a talent for painting, creating stunning artworks despite being registered blind.
War time dig was a success
A project to uncover artefacts from First World War training trenches in a South Shore park has been hailed a success.
Scores of volunteers joined archaeologists and historians to help with the dig at Watson Road Park, which has taken place over the course of the last month.
It is now hoped memorials to commemorate the park’s heritage will be put in place on the site, which was open to the public during the 1914-18 conflict to allow them to view the kind of conditions being encountered by soldiers fighting overseas.
Kirsty Whittall, an archaeologist from the University of Salford, who helped organise the excavation, said: “It was very successful.
“There are quite extensive trench systems running from the very front, right to the back of the park.
“During the excavation we uncovered several artefacts which were quite prudent to our research.”
Among the items found were a communications wire which would have been used to transmit messages between two of the trenches, a ladies broach from 1907 which it is believed was dropped during its owners visit to the trenches when they were open to the public.
Shotgun shrapnel was also found as part of the dig.
Kirsty praised the work of the volunteers who helped the professionals working on the site. She said: “I wish I could have those people on every site I work on.
“They were so dedicated to the archaeology and work we were doing.
“They were absolutely brilliant and the friends of Watson Road Park were amazing and hospitable towards us.”
An open day was held on Sunday to mark the opening of the park’s First World War memorial garden.
Bill Eccles, chairman of the Friends of Watson Road Park, said: “They were very excited about the dig and everything they did.
“We are talking about putting a heritage status plaque on the park and hopefully we’re going to have an opening ceremony in September or October for it.”