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Last Updated: Thursday, 5 August, 2004, 08:45 GMT 09:45 UK
WWI ceremony: Your thoughts
First World War veteran 108-year-old Henry Allingham, from Eastbourne, at the Cenotaph in London
Wednesday was the 90th anniversary of Britain's declaration of war on Germany in 1914.

A ceremony to mark the anniversary took place at the Cenotaph in London.

At least four of the 23 known surviving veterans - all aged over 100 - attended.

Veteran Fred Lloyd, 106, said: "War is not a wonderful thing to be remembered, but those who died must never be forgotten. I'll be there for the lads."

Send us World War I stories told to you by family or friends. What does this anniversary mean to you?

This debate is now closed. Thank you for your comments.


Your thoughts:

These men are heroes and their sacrifice and courage should be an example to all
Andy D, Oxford, UK

Watching these wonderful old gentlemen brought a lump to my throat. I recalled my grandfather, captured by the Germans at the Somme, malnourished in captivity and suffering the after-effects into old age. These men are heroes and their sacrifice and courage should be an example to all and a reminder of the lost values and backbone that once made this country great.
Andy D, Oxford, UK

What astonished me when I visited the Gallipoli battle fields was how small some of them were and how close together the two sides were. It is incredible to think that men went over the top in waves knowing they had no chance but still they went. My grandfather only survived because he was on a charge when his outfit left for the battle. Thank god he loved a drink!
BW Alcock, New Zealand

When I was younger I was opposed to such ceremonies because I believed they glorified war. Now I realise it is quite the opposite and we are not celebrating battle but remembering those who lost their lives. I also think another benefit of such services is to remind us of the brutality, and inhumanity of war which then helps us work harder to try to find diplomatic solutions to conflict. The public in the US are quick to sneer at Europeans who wish to avoid war calling us appeasers but we can still remember the terrible cost of two world wars on our very own soil.
Elise, Durham

The lost generation that saw the world change beyond all recognition and paid an incredible sacrifice. My grandfather fought but it upset him to talk about it.
Jon , Oxford, England

My grandfather took me on a battlefield tour in 1986 for the 70th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme. It is amazing to comprehend that so many died in one battle, let alone the rest of the war. What does war really prove?
Nicholl M, Manchester, USA

I am in awe of these survivors. Nobody but these men can ever hope to understand what this conflict did to a whole generation. War should never be glorified but it should always be remembered and lessons taught.
Martin Witt, Rangiora, New Zealand

I may have no connections with those who fought in WWI but I truly feel for them. Books like 'Birdsong' and 'All Quiet on the Western Front' can only portray a fraction of the true emotions of the soldiers.
Fatima Junaid, England

He was the only one of seven brothers to survive the war
Stephen Lewis, Liverpool UK
My Grandfather served in the WW1 from the age of 17, having lied about his age at the sign up. He entered the fray in 1916 and fought in some of the worst warfare on the western front as an infantry man. He was the only one of seven brothers to survive the war. He rarely spoke about his experiences and I found it incredible that such a kind compassionate man was involved in such spirit consuming events. After the war he was demobbed and, being too old for the second world war assisted the home guard before retiring and living until he was nearly 90-years-old. We will never truly appreciate how spoilt this generation is.
Stephen Lewis, Liverpool UK

My Great-Grandfather fought in the Battle of the Somme and can be seen photographed in many books at the Roll call after the first day of the battle, the day they lost 58,000 comrades in the BEF. This was just one day in the war to end all wars. Unfortunately Human history shows this was/is not to be. My Father and Brother have served in the Navy and I am about to join the RAF. Those that fought, died, lost families and friends and those that survived in all conflicts should always be remembered and honoured. As others have mentioned this was a day where the PM and Queen should have been at the Cenotaph to show how much pride our country has to our Armed Forces past and present.
Jamie, Guildford, UK

My Dad served in the British Army in WW1 in France and told us some wonderful stories. I am really disappointed that the Queen, Tony Blair or at least a senior member of the royal family was not at the ceremony. I know how important veterans and military are to Her Majesty. God Bless those wonderful gentlemen.
Pamela Walsh, Moraga, California

Having visited Ypres a couple of times and finding it heartbreaking on each occasion, I have only deep respect and admiration for those who fought and those who survived. Thanks.
Jean Marriott, Belgium

They called it the Great War because they thought there could never be anything ever so devastatingly pointless again. Anyone who wants an idea of what it was like should read "All Quiet on the Western Front". Books like that should be required reading for all world leaders.
Dan, USA

Thank you to all of them, we'll never forget
Rachel, Oxford
Reading your report brought a lump to my throat, what brave remarkable men. My great grandfather was among those who fought in the great war. Almost loosing his life on the battle field, he survived for 4 days amongst other fallen friends in a field before he was found. My grandma still has the bullet that was removed from his chest. Thank you to all of them, we'll never forget
Rachel, Oxford

My maternal grandfather, Richard Sturgeon was killed at the end of July 1915. My mother was only 5 months old so never knew him. I still have his memorial plaque, medals and cap badge. His name is on the Menin Gate which I hope to visit later this year. We should always remember those who gave their lives so that we have a future. My deepest respects to those who have survived.
Lin Leary, New Malden, Surrey

My Great Uncle Dougald Henry MacDonald was killed in action during WWI. I am proud to still have the bronze plaque with his name on it that was presented to our family after the war in my possession. I find it sad that politicians today still bravely squander the lives of young servicemen in ill advised adventures abroad.
Julian MacDonald Sallows, Holland

My Great Grandfather, a Sikh from the Punjab, India was a WWI veteran. My Gran still tells of how used to wear his Great War medal with such pride and how proud he was to fight for the Mother county.
Suki Singh, London, UK

We have three grandsons and I pray that they will never have to take someone else's life or experience the terror and horror of war
Msmo, London, UK

My maternal grandfather served in HMSAN in both world wars and had the misfortune to have his ship torpedoed in both. He was found after four days on the first occasion and barely survived. He joined as a boy of 16 having lied about his age. My paternal grandfather was an infantryman in WWI. He was gassed twice and mentioned in despatches for bravery in the field of fire. He died before I was born of lung disease due to the mustard gas. My father fought in WWII and was one of those who built the infamous bridge over the River Kwai. This had a profound effect on him and he died whilst still a fairly young man. It was only at his military funeral when his service history was extolled that we had any idea of the way that he had distinguished himself. My sons were both conscripted by the South African government to fight in the bush war. They both survived and make light of the trauma of seek and destroy missions. We have three grandsons and I pray that they will never have to take someone else's life or experience the terror and horror of war.
Msmo, London, UK

My great-grandfather died in 1919 when my grandfather was 4-years-old. He was a Royal Indian Army Signals Corp regular (as was my grandfather during WWII) and served the war in Flanders, we believe. Immediately after the war, he was returning from home leave to rejoin his regiment aboard a civilian ship, The Sicilia. On board he contracted influenza and died, being buried at sea. I am trying to find out the places he would have been posted to pass the history on to my own son. These are sacrifices that should never be forgotten.
Waqaas Kausar, London, UK

My father was shot twice and survived the 1914-18 war as he always called it. I'm sure he kept the worst stories to himself but the ones he told should be given to every politician who ever thinks of sending our young men and women to war.
John Mycroft, Asheville, USA

I took the day off work to attend this ceremony today in London. A very special ceremony. Lest we forget.
Ryan Gearing, Eastbourne, UK

My great uncle was killed at Paschendale, Ypres a few weeks before the end of the war. He was part of the Northern Irish Cavalry. We should be reminded of the lives that hundreds of thousands of young men gave up to fight for their King and country. I'm 21 now and I cannot imagine myself being able to do anything of that magnitude, voluntarily place myself in a trench in France for four years, the idea is so completely alien to me. Today's leaders should all be there and it should make them think long and hard about what it means for the lives of people they lead when they sign a declaration of war.
Andrew, Edinburgh, Scotland

As a 21-year-old I believe these are/were brave brave men, who we owe so so much to. This year Remembrance day I shall be wearing my late Grandfather and Great Grandfathers medals from WWI and WWII respectively and hope to march past the Cenotaph. I shall be bursting with pride!
Liam, Gravesend, England

I am privileged to have visited Ypres and the surrounding areas twice now, during the course of tracing my family tree. Words cannot express how much we owe these men, and how much their generation, families and loved ones suffered - not forgetting those that suffered from their injuries for decades. I have around a dozen ancestors/family members killed or wounded during the Great War - three of them brothers, the youngest only 17. It is about time that November 11th (Remembrance Day) is recognised as a National Holiday - as other countries do. "We shall not sleep, though poppies grow In Flanders Fields...."
Alison Hargreaves, Swindon, UK

When the toccin rang, my great-grandfather was in the field and thought he was going to fight against the English... He was sent into the trenches, took an explosive bullet in his shoulder, he survived with the scares and bits of metal which stayed two inches from his heart. After losing his first wife, he got re-married at the age of 75! He died at the age of 92; I wish I had more memories and stories from him. I hope families of the last centenaries, will record as much as possible for the future generations so they know how it was from the voice of somebody who lived it.
Erwan, Chateaux Thierry, France

Good health to all remaining WWI veterans and God's rest to all those who died from all nations. We will remember them.
Ron Carson, Newcastle

Having been over to many of the WW1 battlefields and cemeteries when I was young it left a long lasting and deep impression on me. I have since studied much literature on the subject and my respect for all the men and women who served grows more and more with every word I read. We will never forget.
Robert Bruce, Sutton, Surrey, England

At the going down of the sun, and in the morning, we will remember them.
Jenny

I have a photo of him - looking every inch the proud Scotsman in his uniform, smoking outside the army barracks with a friend, and just seeming so vital and alive
Susan A, Bracknell

I lost a Great Uncle in WWI - my Uncle Wully. I am told my Grandmother had a dream one night that she would see a letter on the doormat telling her he was dead, and sure enough the next morning, it was there. I only know that he was shot and killed at the age of 19, and that his pocket watch was sent back with his blood still on it. We went to Stirling castle to see his name written in the book of remembrance there, and some day I would like to do that again. Now my brother has his pocket watch and I have a photo of him - looking every inch the proud Scotsman in his uniform, smoking outside the army barracks with a friend, and just seeming so vital and alive. I sometimes wonder what he would do if he were alive now and 19 again? Would he be studying at University, living it up on the weekends, dating girls, or protesting against our wars in other countries? I feel connected to him even though we missed each other by 60 odd years, and he is remembered, which is the most important testament to his sacrifice and youth.
Susan A, Bracknell, UK

I recently visited France and Belgium to see the battlefields, and was the first of my family to see my Great Grandfathers name on the Thiepval Memorial (the Somme). He was killed on 15th September 1916, and never got to see his only child, who was born three weeks after he was killed. I have always found The Great War interesting, and have always been upset by the lack of interest by my generation. I hope this reminds people that this was a massively important period in modern history, and, like the men who fought and died, must never be forgotten.
Adam, Sheffield, England

My great-grandfather and great-grandmother received a telegram within a day of each other - both losing a brother at the Somme, in the Gordon and A&S Highlanders. I will teach my children never to forget - and never to shy from the abject horror that is war.
Cameron , Greenock, Scotland

I find it sad to note that on what could well be the final occasion that any of these brave veterans show their respects for fallen comrades the Prime Minister chose not to be in attendance. I can only hope Mr Blair is otherwise engaged in something equally important such as preventing another war or atrocity as devastating to so many lives. What message does this send out to troops currently serving in areas such as Iraq and Afghanistan about our Prime Minister's lack of respect for those who fought for the freedom of others?
James Robinson, London

It's a pity none of the royal family could spare the time to be at the ceremony? After all our troops were asked to fight for King and country!
Jacquie M, London

Both my grandfathers were soldiers in the first war. One was in France for all but four months of the war. My father was a decorated Lancaster pilot who flew over 50 missions. It is not so distant - I am only 42. I cannot comprehend the level of their suffering and courage or ever repay the debt that we owe them and their two extraordinary generations of ordinary men Having heard their recollections and having grown up vaguely expecting to fight in European war one day I am ever mindful and grateful for the largely peaceful era of freedom in I live in, often lost sight of in EU related political posturing, where pan European teams have been a common aspect of my work.
Jerel Whittingham, Cambridge, England

I have just one question, whilst the country remembered these brave, noble gentlemen, where was Tony Blair? Did he not feel this was important enough for him to attend?
David Ellerd-Cheers, Peterborough, Cambs

My great grandfather served on the western front during the Great War. He fought at Ypres and the Somme. Of a group of thirteen friends who signed up together, only my great grandfather and one other man survived the war. This country owes a debt of gratitude to these men who served during this horrendous war for beliefs such as King and country which now seem so alien to the generations which followed.
Jeff Potts, Sunderland

My great grandfather died somewhere in France in 1915 victim of gas leaving a wife and 7 children (my grandfather never met him). I really hope the leaders of this country and others attend this ceremony to remind them of the consequences of going to war and the suffering it causes. My deepest respects to the last 23 known surviving veterans.
Richard, London, UK

I have nothing but admiration and gratitude to these marvellous men the like of whom we shall never see again
Chris Green, Hagley, Worcs

The contributors so far have made very moving and interesting comments. I lost a Great Grandfather at Ypre in 1914 - he was repairing a road and was shelled. Ironically, I have been in Road maintenance all my working life. I also lost two Great Uncles, on my maternal side and I remember admiring their photographs at my Grandparents house when I was young. I have nothing but admiration and gratitude to these marvellous men the like of whom we shall never see again. Cometh the hour, cometh the man.
Chris Green, Hagley, Worcs, England

My grandfather was shot through the calf at Gallipoli. That's all I know about his Great War experiences. He didn't like to talk about it. Now it's history, but we shouldn't forget the carnage, and we should do everything in our power to stop a senseless global war destroying the youth of another generation.
Dan, UK

I have read everyone's comments so far and they are all very moving, as they should be. We owe so much to these men, most of them who were so young at the time. This coming October we will be visiting France and I will going to the town where my Great Uncle has his name on a Memorial. He is one of many tens of thousands who has no known grave. He died on March 15, 1915, at the age of 17 and a half. To my knowledge no one in my family has been to pay respects to him, most of my family is now dead, so in a way I am doing it for all of them. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission has a fantastic website, and it was through them that I was able to trace Great Uncle George. The rest of my family members all came through WWI, and WWII for that matter, physically intact so we have much to be grateful for.
Susan O'Neill, UK

Thank you. I will teach my son never to forget and I hope he teaches his son.
Paul, UK

My grandfather was in the Royal Navy in 1914. He jumped ship in Canada, possibly through boredom, and joined the Canadian Infantry, consequently being sent to fight in the trenches at Ypres where he was severely injured during a German gas attack and hospitalised in England. I think the Royal Navy may still have him listed as missing from his ship.
Steve, Margate, England

My Grandfather served in WWI - he was a regular and not a conscript - he was gassed a Mons and in his words "was up to (his) neck in crap and bullets at Ypres - when he reached his 80s he had to go into a care home - his army pension was taken towards his care - we protested and appealed but to no avail. We should continue having a remembrance ceremony every 4th August so that the sacrifice of this men should never, ever be forgotten.
Pauline, London

I have recently discovered my Grandfather's diary of his experiences at the Somme and Ypres. It makes for staggering, sobering reading for one of my generation, untroubled by conscription and the call to arms, which were realities for the two previous generations. We must never forget what these young men and women went through. They were everyman; there but for a shift of time walked everyone of us.
Nigel, Redhill, UK

Remembrance Day is our guarantee that WWI and WWII will never be forgotten. More important than remembering the details of what occurred is that such wars should never happen again. The causes, the horror and the aftermath must forever be remembered and lessons learned or we will eventually be led into similar future catastrophes. The anniversary ceremonies are for those who were there but Remembrance Day is for us all.
John M, Lyne Meads, UK

This means a great deal to me and my family. My maternal Grandmother had four brothers killed in WWI, three of them on the same day, the 1st July 1916 - the infamous First Day on the Somme. As to whether this was a just war in the same way as WWII I am not in any position to judge but we must never forget the Lost Generation.
Andy, Figheldean, UK

My grandfather was in the Royal Army Medical Corps, in 1914 -1918. He never talked about it. He was shot three times, whilst carrying out stretcher duties, recovering German and BFI infantry. He said to me when I joined the Royal Navy in 1963, "Your greatest for is not the soldier trying to kill you, it's your own General trying to get you shot for a yard of land."
Jim Evans, Brighton, UK

My grandfather was 17 - and lied about his age - when he signed up. He wouldn't marry my grandmother before he went to France "because there will be too many widows after it". He was in the horse artillery; he was wounded and returned to England to recover. You would normally stay in England and train others after that but he was mistakenly posted back to France, he pointed out the mistake and was given the option of staying in England. He choose to return "because if I didn't I would get an envelope of white feathers". He wrote to my grandmother every week.

We still have the letters, some in beautiful lace envelopes, complete with censors marks. They are lovingly referred to as "Granddad's French Letters" by the family. When he returned after the war he married my Grandmother and they stayed married, having two children, until she died at the age of 98, he died at 99, two months short of his 100th birthday. I still have his medals - alongside my fathers from the second world war.
Terry, Epsom, England





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