The vigil at St Peter’s Collegiate Church on Sunday 3 August, 2014, is one of a series of events taking place around the city over the next few years to remember those who fought and died during the “war to end all wars”.
They include acts of remembrance, exhibitions and stage plays, as well as activities for all the family.
As the nation prepares to commemorate the centenary of the day Britain declared war – 4 August, 1914 – St Peter’s Collegiate Church will be holding a prayer vigil, open to people of all faiths and none, on 3 August from 7.15pm-9pm.
Residents in Wolverhampton are also being encouraged to take part in the Royal British Legion’s national Lights Out initiative, which is asking people to turn off their lights for an hour from 10pm on Monday 4 August – leaving only a single light or candle for this symbolic act of reflection and hope. This act will be repeated at a televised commemoration at Westminster Abbey on 4 August.
Lights Out is being organised in recognition of the comment by Sir Edward Grey, Foreign Secretary in 1914, who said: “The lamps are going out all over Europe, we shall not see them lit again in our lifetime”. For more details, please visit www.britishlegion.org.uk/lights-out.
Next month’s commemorations are among a series of events taking place in Wolverhampton between now and 2018. Other events in the coming months include:
- Bantock House will stage its inaugural World War Weekend on Saturday and Sunday, 6 and 7 September, featuring nostalgia, re-enactments, period costume, music and stalls to take people back in time to both the First and Second World Wars.
- Bantock House Museum is working with Wolverhampton Archives and Local Studies with both venues hosting a series of exhibitions based on letters written during the conflict, including Letters Home at Bantock House from Thursday 14 August to Sunday 2 November.
- Bantock House Museum will be staging free talks – Letters Home on Tuesday 2 September and 1914 And All That on Tuesday 7 October – and hosting The Trench Raiders, a sing-along featuring popular First World War tunes which British soldiers put their own words to, on Saturday 1 November.
- City Archivist Heidi McIntosh will be giving a talk about the discovery of a white feather sent to a local man accusing him of cowardice despite him being excused from military service at Wolverhampton Art Gallery on Friday 15 August and Wolverhampton Archives and Local Studies on Wednesday 10 September.
- The role of Bilston’s factories in the war effort and the experiences of people who worked in them will be the focus of the Craft and Conflict exhibition at Bilston Craft Gallery from Saturday 13 September to Saturday 22 November.
- Wolverhampton Art Gallery will be showcasing paintings by Cradley-born artist Brian Yale from Saturday 26 July to Saturday 29 November based on sketches made on battlefields of the First World War.
- The Grand Theatre will be staging Regeneration, telling how poet and soldier Siegfried Sassoon was institutionalised in an attempt to undermine his public disapproval of the war, from Tuesday to Saturday, 4-8 November.
- The Annual Festival of Remembrance will take place at the Civic Hall on Sunday 2 November, giving people the chance to pay their respects to those who served their country in the First World War and subsequent conflicts.
- Wolverhampton City Council will be holding the annual Remembrance Sunday service on Sunday 9 November while the Central Branch of the Wolverhampton Royal British Legion will be staging its Armistice Day service on Tuesday 11 November, 96 years to the day that the First World War officially ended.
- The bonfire and fireworks displays at Hickman Park and West Park on Friday 31 October and Saturday 1 November, 2014, will feature a minute’s silence and the Last Post before the sky is turned red by a poppy-themed pyrotechnical display.
Full details of all the events taking place in Wolverhampton are available at www.wolverhampton.gov.uk/worldwar1, with many more set to be arranged over the next few years.
The city’s commemorations will culminate in the laying of permanent tributes to two Wolverhampton men who received the Victoria Cross during the First World War.
Wolverhampton City Council will be receiving paving stones to commemorate Lance Corporal George Onions, born in Bilston in 1883, and Lance Corporal Roland Elcock, born in Wolverhampton in 1899, who received the award for their actions on 22 August and 15 October 1918 respectively. They will be laid in 2018 to mark the centenary of the award of the Victoria Crosses – two of just 628 bestowed during the entire conflict.
Meanwhile, Heidi McIntosh and staff and volunteers from Wolverhampton Archives and Local Studies have created a blog, Wolverhampton’s War – Lost Voices From The Great War, to share stories of local men and women who were involved, both at home and abroad, building a picture of what Wolverhampton people experienced during the war. It can be found at http://wolverhamptonswar.wordpress.com/.
Councillor Elias Mattu, Wolverhampton City Council’s Cabinet Member for Leisure and Communities, said: “The First World War touched every city, town and village in Britain; millions of our countrymen served and almost 900,000 died in action.
“We have a duty to educate today’s generation about what the country went through 100 years ago, and it is important that people in Wolverhampton are able to remember this terrible conflict.”