'A female gas lamp cleaner of the Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway at work outside Victoria station, Manchester, 1917', courtesy of the Imperial War Museum, © IWM, Q 109866

Professor Gary Sheffield dubs UK 'lights out' Centenary plan a "gimmick"

Posted on centenarynews.com on 28 March 2014
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The Professor of War Studies at the University of Wolverhampton, Gary Sheffield, has described an initiative which asks people to switch off their lights to mark the First World War Centenary as a "ludicrous gimmick".

Yesterday, as part of a series of cultural events to mark the Centenary, entitled 14-18 NOW, people in Britain were called upon to switch off all but one light on the 100th anniversary of Britain's declaration of war on Germany.

However, Professor Gary Sheffield said that "the 'lights out' idea to mark the outbreak of the First World War is a remarkably stupid gimmick".

The move has also been criticised by some on social media, with users pointing out that many people will already have all of their lights out and that this type of initiative may not engage with some sections of the British public.

Other users however have praised the idea for its simplicity and inclusivity, with the potential of millions of people across the UK taking part in a collective act of remembrance.

As war appeared inevitable in the summer of 1914, the UK's Foreign Secretary, Sir Edward Grey, commented that: "The lamps are going out all over Europe; we shall not see them lit again in our lifetime".

The United Kingdom declared war on Germany at 11:00pm on the 4th August 1914 after Germany refused to respect Belgium's neutrality and sovereignty.

The 14-18 NOW initiative, entitled 'Lights Out' asks people to switch on a single light in their homes on the 4th August 2014 at 10:00pm, representing 100 years since the start of "one of the darkest periods in the nation’s history".

Posted by: Daniel Barry, Centenary News