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Britain unveils WWI centenary commemoration plans

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Britain set out Monday its plans to commemorate the centenary of World War I, including international acts of remembrance, cultural events and battlefield visits for English schoolchildren.

The commemorations begin on August 4 next year with a service for Commonwealth leaders at Glasgow Cathedral, a candlelit vigil in London's Westminster Abbey and an event at the St Symphorien Military Cemetery in Belgium.

The Glasgow service, which will recognise the contribution and sacrifices made by the countries of Britain's then empire, comes the day after the closing ceremony of the 2014 Commonwealth Games, being held in Scotland's biggest city.

"We have produced a fitting programme of events to remember and mark the actions of men and women from Britain, the Commonwealth and all the nations involved in the First World War," said Culture Secretary Maria Miller, who is in charge of the programme.

"On August 4, 1914, we entered the war -- a war like no other the world had seen.

"It is right we remember and mark the centenary of this momentous day in the world's history, bringing its importance alive for younger generations and remembering the price that was paid by all involved."

Britain has set aside £50 million ($80 million, 60 million euros) for the four-year programme marking the 1914-1918 conflict.

The Westminster Abbey vigil of prayer, penitence and solemn reflection will conclude with the last candle being extinguished at 11:00 pm -- the moment war was declared. The vigil may be replicated in churches and other places of worship around Britain.

The event at St Symphorien outside Mons will focus on reconciliation. The cemetery contains an equal numbers of Commonwealth and German graves, including the remains of the first British soldier killed in action on the Western Front and the last two Commonwealth casualties of the war.

National acts of remembrance will mark the first day of the Battle of the Somme (2016) and Armistice Day (2018).

The Gallipoli landings, the Battle of Jutland, and the first day of Passchendaele will also be marked.

But some critics complained that the government was failing to explain the reasons behind the war.

Historian Max Hastings said the government had taken a "non-judgemental approach".

He told BBC radio it was "as important that we prevailed over the Germany of that period as it was over the Germany of the Nazi era".

"The government is very frightened of taking any sort of view that might suggest we upset the Germans all over again."

In other projects, the Imperial War Museum in London will reopen in mid-2014 following the £35 million refurbishment of the World War I galleries.

Two schoolchildren and a teacher from every English state school will visit the Western Front battlefields in a £5.3 million project.

The war's last known combat veteran, Claude Choules, died in Australia in 2010 at the age of 110. He served in the British Royal Navy.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130610/britain-unveils-wwi-centenary-commemoration-plans