Video and Photo gallery: Norwich marks centenary of First World War

The Day We Went To War, one hundred years to the day since Britain entered the First World War, exhibition at The Forum. The Town Crier and The Day We Went To War, one hundred years to the day since Britain entered the First World War, exhibition at The Forum. The Town Crier and "soldiers" introduce The Lord Mayor at the opening of the exhibition. Picture by SIMON FINLAY.

Monday, August 4, 2014
12:15 PM

A hundred years to the day since Great Britain entered the First World War and Norwich has been remembering more than 3,500 of the city’s sons who perished.

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The Forum is today hosting a special exhibition entitled The Day We Went To War, with the Fusion Screen showing the Norwich Roll of Honour.

That contains the names of all those who died in the war. Every fifteen minutes 220 names of the brave soldiers who gave their lives flash up, with the cycle taking four hours and eight minutes for every name to appear.

A memorial wall has also been set up in the atrium of The Forum, where people are posting the name of family members who served in the war - or simply thanking those who gave their lives.

The Norwich town crier launched the exhibition today, reading out the announcement from a century ago that Great Britain and Germany were about to go to war.

He also read out an appeal from that period for people to make their horses available to be purchased by the military for use in the war.

Judith Lubbock, Lord Mayor of Norwich, announced the opening of the exhibition, which was organised by Norfolk Library and Information Service, the Norfolk Museums and Archaeology Service, the Norfolk Record Office and The Forum.

She said: “There were more than 3.500 from Norwich who gave their lives. Those were someone’s sons, brothers and husbands. Events like this, as well as commemorating them, can bring that point home.

“Everyone has a family and they can link that to their own families as a way to keep the memories alive. With exhibitions like this we are making sure they we do everything we can to work towards peace.”

Inside The Forum, people have been able to see what it was like to ‘take the King’s shilling’ and sign up at a recruitment office and look at wartime documents, letters, posters and photographs.

Experts from Norfolk Record Office have been helping people to research their military history, while author and historian Neil Storey was interpreting family military photographs and memorabilia.

He will give a free illustrated talk at 6pm about the decade leading up to Christmas 1914.
Mr Storey said the impact on Norwich of the First World War had been “profound”.

He said: “The city lost more than 3.500 men. That was street after street in areas like St Augustine’s, which was a very close knit community. These were men who worked together, went to war together and died together.

“The impact was absolutely profound. The city did not lose a generation in terms of numbers, but the sense was that it had.

“People were wearing black armbands and black buttons. It was a terrible, terrible toll.”

He said those who stayed behind also played a huge part in the war effort, from the production at the Boulton and Paul factory to the mustard Colman’s made to improve the food in the trenches and Caley’s ‘marching chocolate’.

Tonight, the lights will go out in Norwich as the city joins in with a national initiative to mark the centenary.

City Hall, Norwich Castle, St Peter Mancroft Church and The Guildhall will be in awe-inspiring company with London’s Westminster Abbey in switching off their lights between 10pm and 11pm.

The switch-off is part of the Lights Out initiative, which marks exactly 100 years since Great Britain entered the war.

It has been inspired by the words of wartime foreign secretary Sir Edward Grey, who said on the eve of war: “The lamps are going out all over Europe; we shall not see them lit again in our lifetime.”

During the hour of commemoration, the public is asked to use only a single candle or leave on a single light for a shared moment of reflection.

Brenda Arthur, leader of Norwich City Council, said: “I hope the people of Norwich will come together and join us in this shared moment of reflection.

“It will be an opportunity to honour the sacrifice of those who fought so bravely and to join with people all over the UK to show that we have not forgotten the events of 100 years ago.”

The Very Revd Jane Hedges, Dean of Norwich, said: “This is an opportunity for us to come together as a community to express our sorrow at the human action which leads to war and conflict and to commit ourselves to working for peace in our world today.”

In Norwich, the switch-off will be preceded by two commemorative services followed by two candle-lit processions through the city’s streets, which will converge at the War Memorial in St Peter’s Street opposite City Hall at 10pm.

A service will be held at Norwich Cathedral at 9.30pm and a requiem mass will be held at Norwich’s St John The Baptist Roman Catholic Cathedral at 8pm.

Following the processions, the second part of the evening’s commemoration will begin at 10.30pm and will include a series of readings, prayers and music and two minutes’ silence at 11pm.

The Dean and Bishop of Norwich, the Lord Mayor, and the leader of Norwich City Council will all be in attendance.

Only the lights of the war memorial will be shining. Street lights in St Peters Street will be switched off and only a single light will be lit in each of the darkened surrounding buildings.

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