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Lights out at the Abbey

02 August 2013

WESTMINSTER ABBEY

Great War memorial: the Grave of the Unknown Warrior is covered in floral tributes, in a photograph from 1920

Great War memorial: the Grave of the Unknown Warrior is covered in floral tributes, in a photograph from 1920

WESTMINSTER Abbey is planning a candlelit vigil of prayer, to take place on 4 August next year, to mark the centenary of the start of the First World War.

A statement from Westminster Abbey, issued last week, said: "During the evening of silence, prayers, readings, and music at the Abbey, the congregation will see the light of candles disappear one by one, until a final remaining candle is extinguished at 11 p.m.

"The process of extinguishing the light of the candles is intended to echo the words of Sir Edward Grey, the British Foreign Secretary, who said, at the outbreak of the Great War: 'The lamps are going out all over Europe. We shall not seem them lit again in our time.'"

The Dean of Westminster, the Very Revd John Hall, said: "Our aim is that the vigil will introduce a note of solemn reflection on the failure of diplomacy coupled with an element of penitence. We have been involved in extensive discussions not only with the Government but with others. We sincerely hope that the ambassadors of all countries involved in the First World War - including Germany, Austria and Turkey - will be with us at the vigil next August."

Westminster Abbey contains the Grave of the Unknown Warrior, which holds an unidentified British soldier killed during the First World War, and the Padre's Flag, a Union flag that the Revd David Railton, an army chaplain, draped over make-shift altars on the battlefields of the Great War.

The Abbey said that it hoped that cathedrals and parish churches would hold their own services to mark the centenary of the start of the First World War, and replicate its idea of a candlelit vigil. It said that it was in discussions with the BBC about broadcasting the service live.

The Abbey will host a national service to mark the centenary of the Armistice on 11 November 2018.

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