Battle of Arras Centenary: 'The Earth Remembers', a memorial dedicated to New Zealand's tunnellers, after its unveiling in a dawn service at La Carrière Wellington, Arras, on April 9 (Photo: Centenary News)

Review of WW1 Centenary year 2017

Posted on centenarynews.com on 27 December 2017
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Centenary News looks back, in pictures, at some of many events in 2017 commemorating the 100th anniversary of the First World War.

February

More than 600 South Africans lost in the sinking of the troopship SS Mendi  were remembered at centenary ceremonies in the UK and South Africa. Mendi sank after a collision with another vessel off the Isle of Wight on 21 February 1917. Most of those who perished were black South African troops, recruited for labouring duties on the Western Front. 

The South African government led a remembrance service, attended by Princess Anne, at the Hollybrook Memorial in Southampton on February 20.

Natalia Sifuba was among relatives who laid wreaths. She is a fifth generation descendant of the Reverend Isaac Dyobha, who delivered final words of encouragement to the troops on SS Mendi: "Be quiet and calm, my countrymen, for what is taking place is exactly what you came to do. You are going to die, but that is what you came to do."

Jeff Radebe, Minister in the South African Presidency, and Princess Anne prepare to lay their wreaths.

April - Battle of Arras Centenary

Arras and Vimy Ridge hosted a day of commemorations on  April 9,  bringing together the nations who fought in the Allies' first concerted Western Front offensive of 1917.

A new memorial, dedicated to New Zealand's tunnellers, was unveiled during a dawn service at La Carrière Wellington. The Earth Remembers was created by artist Marian Fountain. Here, New Zealand Attorney-General Chris Finlayson and the Mayor of Arras, Frédéric Leturque, shake hands after its inauguration. 

German and Indian representatives lay wreaths at the Battle of Arras Memorial. Readings were introduced by Carl Liversage, Head of External Engagement for the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

Events in and around the city of Arras paid tribute to the soldiers of all the countries involved in the 1917 campaign, and in particular Canada, New Zealand and Scotland for whom the Battle of Arras has special resonance. 

A First World War telegram bearing the news of a family forebear's death was held up by the Right Reverend Dr Russell Barr, Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, during his centenary address at Faubourg d'Amiens CWGC Cemetery.

Two pipers led Scottish pupils in procession to lay tributes at soldiers' graves.

The commemorations closed with a traditional Beating Retreat ceremony in the Place des Héros, performed by the Pipes & Drums and Military Band of the Royal Regiment of Scotland.

Victory Medal - a work by New Zealand sculptor Helen Pollock - was displayed in Arras at the start of its tour of France and Flanders in April 2017. It formed the centrepiece of Coquelicot de la Paix, a giant Poppy of Peace surrounded by red discs bearing commemorative messages. The 36 pairs of feet represent a platoon. 

Victory Medal went on to Messines for the Battle of Messines/Third Battle of Ypres/Passchendaele centenary commememorations. In November 2018, it'll be permanently installed at Le Quesnoy on the 100th anniversary of the French town's liberation by New Zealand troops in the last week of the Great War.

May

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission marked the 100th anniversary of its own foundation in 1917. CWGC's cemeteries and memorials today honour more than 1.7 million men and women of British and Commonwealth forces who fell in both world wars.

As part of its centenary commemorations, CWGC held an exhibition, For Then For Now Forever, at Brookwood Military Cemetery in Surrey, its largest UK site. The entrance was flanked by portraits of Sir Fabian Ware, founder of the Imperial War Graves Commission, now CWGC, in 1917.

Actor Brian Blessed with Victoria Wallace, Director General of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, at the opening of the Brookwood exhibition.

Brookwood was also the focus for US First World War remembrance on Memorial Day, May 28, at Brookwood American Cemetery and Memorial which adjoins the CWGC cemeteries. The 100th anniversary of America's declaration of war on Germany in 1917 was itself commemorated with an international ceremony on April 6 at the National World War I Museum and Memorial, Kansas City - hosted by the US World War I Centennial Commission.   

US Memorial Day at Brookwood: More than 116,000 Americans died in the Great War - 468 troops are buried at Brookwood. The names of 563 missing in action are inscribed on the walls of the chapel. The site is cared for by the American Battle Monuments Commission.

June

Queen Elizabeth and Germany's Ambassador to the UK attended commemorations in London on June 15 marking the centenary of a First World War air raid which left 18 schoolchildren dead. 

Researchers, led by local historian Stanley Kaye, traced more than 200 descendants of those killed in the first attack on London by Gotha bomber planes, inviting them to a day of remembrance events in the East End district of Poplar.

Bandsmen performed at the Angel memorial to the children killed in the bombing of Upper North Street School, Poplar, in June 1917.

Dr Peter Ammon (left), German Ambassador to the UK, received a centenary commemorative medal from event organiser, Stan Kaye. "Let this remembrance be reason enough for us and our political leaders to continue to work hard to promote peace and friendship," Dr Ammon said.

Later in June, a new memorial was unveiled in south London to honour the many thousands of servicemen and women from African and Caribbean countries who fought and died for Britain in the First and Second World Wars.

The inauguration of the African and Caribbean Memorial in Windrush Square, Brixton. The project was led by the Nubian Jak Community Trust, a cultural and educational community organisation which already runs a commemorative plaque scheme in the UK to honour prominent figures in black history (Photo: Patrick Gregory, Centenary News).

The memorial's two obelisks, sculpted from Scottish whinstone, are engraved with the names of every African and Carbibbean regiment who served during the two world wars.

July - Third Battle of Ypres/Passchendaele Centenary

The wearied figure of a soldier, crafted in sand mixed with mud from Passchendaele, was displayed in London's Trafalgar Square in the run-up to centenary commemorations in Flanders.

The Mud Soldier, created by Dutch artists Damian and Kilian Van Der Velden, was designed to erode gradually under sprinklers - representing Passchendaele's notorious rain - during a four-day vigil next to the National Gallery.

Unveiling of the Mud Soldier on July 25 by Andrew Daines, of VisitFlanders; Councillor Rachael Robathan from Westminster City Council; and the artists Damian and Kilian Van Der Velden.

The world's largest Commonwealth cemetery, Tyne Cot, was the setting for a remembrance service on July 31, opening four months of international commemorations honouring all those who fought and died at the Third Battle of Ypres/Passchendaele (Photo courtesy of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission).

Descendants were among 4,000 guests attending the UK ceremony at Tyne Cot Cemetery, together with King Philippe of Belgium, senior members of the British Royal Family and representatives of the former WW1 combatant nations. German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel said: "Never again may diplomacy fail the way it did in 1914."

The Prince of Wales speaking at the Cross of Sacrifice, which stands on a former German blockhouse. In his address, Prince Charles said Passchendaele was remembered "not only for the rain that fell, the mud that weighed down the living and swallowed the dead, but also for the courage and bravery of the men who fought here" (Photo courtesy of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission).

Australia commemorated the Battle of Polygon Wood in September, and New Zealand its 'darkest day' at Passchendaele in October. Canada held events in Flanders in November to mark the 100th anniversary of its forces entering Passchendaele village in 1917.

November

America's new National World War I Memorial took significant towards becoming reality after 100 years, The US Centennial Commission held a ground-breaking ceremony on November 9 to get the project under way in Washington. Chairman Terry Hamby said: "Our 4.7 million World War I veterans and their families are no less deserving to be recognised with a memorial, just as all veterans who have been recognised for their service in all of our nation's other conflicts and wars."

Soil from the Meuse-Argonne battlefields in France, where 26,000 US soldiers fell in 1918, is turned to mark start of work on the National WWI Memorial in Pershing Park, Washington DC (Photo courtesy of United States World War I Centennial Commission)

In its Centenary year, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission launched a new charity, aimed at building up a global supporters' group to help promote its mission of remembrance. The Commonwealth War Graves Foundation (CWGF), will offer 'hands-on opportunities' to get involved in projects and events, fund raising for education and community programmes not covered by CWGC's founding charter in 1917.

Actors from Kent Youth Theatre sounded an army whistle, last used on the Somme, to herald the birth of the Commonwealth War Graves Foundation - CWGF. 

 

Scarlett Watkins and Andrew Williams, who took part in CWGC's new internship scheme in the summer, at the Merchant Navy Memorial, London, for the launch of the Commonwealth War Graves Foundation.

Battle of Cambrai Centenary

Soldiers and veterans of Britain's Royal Tank Regiment paraded before a Mark IV tank at the Cenotaph in tribute to their predecessors who took part in the first mass tank attack at Cambrai on 21 November 1917.

The replica Mark IV - brought to London from the Tank Museum in Dorset - stood just a short distance from the Lutyens-designed monument in Whitehall, built as the focus for UK national remembrance after the First World War.

The Royal Tank Regiment's Cambrai commemorative service under way on Sunday November 19.

A preserved WW1 tank was the focus for commemorations, in Ashford. The Mark IV was originally presented to the people of the Kent town in 1919 in gratitude for their contributions towards a fund-raising campaign for the British war effort.

Soldiers of the Royal Tank Regiment joined local councillors, residents and schoolchildren for the service in Ashford on November 17.

Councillor Winston Michael, Mayor of Ashford, lays his wreath at the town's tank memorial. 

In November, Scotland marked the centenary of the death of Elsie Inglis, a pioneering doctor who founded the Scottish Women's Hospitals movement during the Great War. Dr Inglis defied officialdom to set up a network of hospitals for wounded soldiers on the Western Front and in the Balkans, notably Serbia and Romania.  Princess Anne and Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon attended a thanksgiving service for her life and work at St Giles' Cathedral, Edinburgh, on November 29.

Tributes were also paid at Dr Elsie Inglis's grave in Dean Cemetery, Edinburgh, on November 26, the 100th anniversary of her death in 1917. Pictured here is Geraldine Inglis, her great great niece, and the last family member to bear the Inglis surname. The Serbian Defence Attaché in London,  Captain Slobodan Novaković, was among guests who joined descendants in laying wreaths (Photo: WW100 Scotland/Lenny Warren).

Compiled by CN Editor

Images: Centenary News - except Tyne Cot/Passchendaele commemorations (courtesy of Commonwealth War Graves Commission; National World War I Memorial, Washington DC  (courtesy of US World War I Centennial Commission); Dr Elsie Inglis Centenary (courtesy of WW100 Scotland/Lenny Warren)

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