The Duke of Edinburgh will tonight lead commemorations in Norfolk to the thousands of men who died during the First World War.

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One hundred years ago today, Britain’s involvement in the Great War began, signalling the start of a long and bloody conflict that wiped out a generation of young men and devastated families across the country. The Duke will attend a service at Sandringham Church, while the Queen will be at Crathie Kirk, near Balmoral in Scotland, to remember the fallen.

Hundreds of people across Norfolk and Waveney gathered yesterday on the eve of the centenary of the Great War starting to remember the men that went off to serve their country and never returned.

On August 3 1914, Sir Edward Grey, Foreign Secretary, uttered the famous words: “The lamps are going out all over Europe, we shall not see them lit again in our lifetime.”

Residents in villages, towns and cities across the UK are being urged to switch off their lights tonight between 10pm and 11pm to commemorate the beginning of the conflict in a national moment of reflection.

Today, the great-niece of a First World War soldier will join dignitaries including the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge at a special ceremony to mark 100 years since Britain joined the conflict. Helen Jones, of Westwoodside, north Lincolnshire, will be the first member of her family to visit the grave of her great-uncle Private George Bellamy as she attends a special evening ceremony at St Symphorien military cemetery near Mons, Belgium.

Other services are to take place in London and Glasgow today as part of the nationwide centenary commemorations.

Services were held in Norwich, Great Yarmouth, King’s Lynn, and Thetford yesterday and more will be held today across the region as a mark of respect. Poppy wreathes were placed in Brandon market place during a remembrance ceremony yesterday for the men killed in the First World War with local people, councillors and cubs and scouts from the 1st Brandon Cubs and Scouts paying their respects.

A service in Norwich was followed by the launch of a new book by local historian Stuart McLaren, who spent 15 years researching the lives of 104 men from St Augustine’s who died in the Great War.

Mr McLaren, who wrote ‘They Are Not Dead’. A Norwich Parish in the First World War: Remembering a Lost Generation said there were only 79 names on the war memorial at St Augustine’s Church, in Norwich, but he had found another 25 during his research.

He added that it was unusual that the name of a deserter, John Henry Abigail, of the 8th Battalion of the Norfolk Regiment appeared on the list of the parish’s war dead after he was shot dead by a firing squad before the Battle of Passchendaele.

A project examining how the agricultural communities around Watton were affected by the First World War will also get under way this week.

The World War One in Wayland project launches today at The Christian Community Centre, High Street, Watton from 9.30am to noon.

People are being encouraged to bring in documents from the time to be scanned and copied so that they can be included in the research. The Heritage Lottery-funded project will run until the end of 2016 and the Wayland Partnership hopes that a book and DVDs can be produced.

For more stories of how the conflict affected our region, see our special 16-page supplement East Anglia at War inside today’s paper.

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