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Candlelit Vigil marks Great War Centenary

Monday, 4th August 2014

Candlelit Vigil marks Great War Centenary

Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Cornwall GCVO, representing Her Majesty The Queen, attended a Solemn Commemoration on the Centenary of the Outbreak of the First World War at Westminster Abbey on Monday 4th August at 10pm.

The service was also attended by the Deputy Prime Minister, the Right Honourable Nick Clegg MP; the Leader of Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition, the Right Honourable Ed Miliband MP; the Secretary of State for Defence, the Right Honourable Michael Fallon MP; the Senior Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, the Right Honourable The Baroness Warsi; the Speaker of the House of Commons, the Right Honourable John Bercow MP; the Lord Speaker, The Baroness D'Souza; the Lord-Lieutenant of Greater London, Sir David Brewer CMG JP; the Lord Mayor of London, Fiona Woolf CBE; the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson; and representatives of the First Minister of Scotland and the First Minister of Wales, the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis, and the Chief of the Air Staff.

The service was conducted by the Dean of Westminster, the Very Reverend Dr John Hall who said in his Bidding:

Welcome to Westminster Abbey, this House of God, the place of burial, amongst the graves and memorials of Kings and Queens of this Kingdom and many of its greatest men and women, of an Unknown Warrior from the Great War.
The Grave reminds us of the meaning of war but our focus is not tonight on remembrance.
In solemnly commemorating the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War, as we reflect on the failure of the human spirit that led to an inexorable slide into war, let us spend a moment in silent repentance.

The service of music, prayers and readings fell into four parts, at the end of each of which candles were extinguished — both a symbolic candle and those held by people in various parts of the Abbey. The final darkness, save for a Paschal Candle in the Lady Chapel, echoed the remarks of Sir Edward Grey, the Foreign Secretary in 1914, who predicted in his famous remark a hundred years ago that the lamps were going out all over Europe.

Sir Hew Strachan, Chichele Professor of the History of War, University of Oxford, gave An Historical Reflection; David Morrissey, actor, read 1914 by Wilfred Owen; the Secretary of State for Defence read Joel 2: 1-3, 12-13; Captain Edward Harris, Coldstream Guards, read A Letter to Joy by Captain Alfred Dougan 'Mickey' Chater, 2nd Battalion the Gordon Highlanders in 1914; Rachael Stirling, actor, read On Receiving News Of The War by Isaac Rosenberg; General The Lord Dannatt GCB CBE MC DL read Isaiah 2: 2-4; and the Reverend Jonathan Woodhouse CB QHC, Chaplain-General to Her Majesty's Land Forces, read A Letter Home from the letters of the Very Reverend Eric Milner-White, Army Chaplain in 1915.

Dame Penelope Keith DBE DL, actor, read Many Sisters To Many Brothers by Rose Macaulay; Major Debra Ritsperis, Nurse Education Adviser, Queen Alexandra's Royal Army Nursing Corps, read Lamentations 1: 1-3, 6a, 7; Pippa Bennett-Warner, actor, read from The Great War Diaries of Georgina Lee; Mark Gatiss, actor, read The Messages by Wilfrid Wilson Gibson; Sir Nicholas Young, Chief Executive, British Red Cross, read 2 Corinthians 4: 6-11; Sebastian Faulks CBE read an extract from his own novel Birdsong; and the Reverend Dr James Hawkey, Minor Canon and Precentor of Westminster, read St John 12: 27-33,35.

Prayers were said by the Right Reverend Nigel McCulloch KCVO, National Chaplain to the Royal British Legion; His Eminence Cardinal Vincent Nichols, (Roman Catholic) Archbishop of Westminster; the Right Reverend and Right Honourable Richard Chartres KCVO, Bishop of London; and Bishop Petra Bosse-Huber, Evangelische Kirche in Deutschland.

Candles were extinguished by Able Seaman Kam Clarke; the Right Honourable Baroness Warsi; Major General Edward Smyth-Osbourne CBE, General Officer Commanding London District and Major General Commanding the Household Division; the Right Honourable Nick Clegg MP; and HRH The Duchess of Cornwall.

After the final candle was extinguished Rachael Stirling read from Little Gidding by TS Eliot by the light of the Paschal Candle in the Lady Chapel and the Venerable Andrew Tremlett, Canon in Residence, read St John 1: 1-5.

The service was sung by the Choir of Westminster Abbey conducted by James O'Donnell, Organist and Master of the Choristers. The organ was played by Daniel Cool, Sub-Organist and before the service by Martin Ford, Assistant Organist.

Music during the service included a choral work commissioned by the Dean & Chapter of Westminster and the Department of Culture Media and Sport, from the composer David Matthews. The piece To What God Shall We Chant Our Songs Of Battle takes its title from a poem by Harold Monro (1879-1932) and verses from Lamentations and the Gospel of Saint Luke.

Jennifer Pike (violin) and Daniel Cook (organ) played The Lark Ascending by Ralph Vaughan Williams.

See also:

The Order of Service (PDF, 1.1MB)

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I feel very privileged to work here. I take so much pride in working for a beautiful place like the Abbey, it’s unique.


Alex - Abbey Marshal

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