Monday 4 August 2014 marked the centenary of Britain’s entry into the First World War. The City of Westminster Archives have been working on WW1 education projects for a number of years and thanks to support from the Heritage Lottery Fund are marking the centenary year with the ‘Playing the Game’ project.
In the morning a registered City of Westminster Guide led a free walk through the heart of Westminster telling the story of WW1 using key locations such as Parliament Square, Wellington Barracks, Horse Guards Parade and the Cenotaph on Whitehall. 23 people enjoyed the walk in the bright sunshine and hearing the stories a year to the day was very poignant. Further free walks later in the year are being led from Charing Cross, Pimlico, Paddington, Fulham and Chelsea libraries.
‘Fields of Battle: Lands of Peace’ is a major WW1 outdoor exhibition in St James’s Park. On Monday it was officially opened by HRH the Duke of Kent. The exhibition shows large scale photographs of key battlefields as they appear today, reclaimed by nature but still showing the scars of war.
The archives provided further interpretation including soldiers stories from the ‘Playing the Game’ project. One of them, Robert ‘Pom Pom’ Whiting, even turned up to see what all the fuss was!
The exhibition will be in St James’s Park (just opposite Horse Guards Parade) until remembrance week.
“The lamps are going out all over Europe; we shall not see them lit again in our life-time.”
– Sir Edward Grey, 3 August 1914
Finally, after a long day, attention turned to Piccadilly Circus and the national ‘Lights Out’ initiative inspired by Sir Edward Grey’s famous words. ‘Playing the Game’ volunteers at the archives worked on a Westminster Roll of Honour featuring over 2000 names of the men who served and died in WW1. The names and archive photographs were then displayed on the world famous lights at Piccadilly Circus. Kaitlyn Hof-Mahoney, project volunteer, said:
“I was surprised to see the range of regiments the men from Westminster fought in from the Australian Infantry to the East Lancashire Regiment and the Indian Army to local regiments such as the Queen’s Westminster Rifles. They also filled a variety of roles including musicians, chaplains and veterinarians. Hundreds of men died on the Western Front in Belgium and France but many also lost their lives in more unusual locations such as Denmark, Iran, Kenya, and the USA.”