Why does the First World War continue to haunt us? Think of recent TV programmes and films like Birdsong, War Horse, Parade’s End and - set in Derbyshire – The Village. Or the countless documentaries and archive programmes and books about the war. Think too of the interest created by the deaths of the last surviving combatants a few years ago. The ‘war to end all wars’ has burned itself deep into our national consciousness, more so than any other nation except, perhaps, France. There have been other wars since but the First World War still seems to be the defining war of our time. It delivered the greatest shock to the system.
On 11 October 2012 the Prime Minister outlined his government’s plans for the national centenary commemorations of the First World War. These will start on 4 August 2014, the centenary of Britain’s declaration of war on Germany, and end on 11 November 2018, Armistice Day. £35m will be spent on the refurbishment of the Imperial War Museum’s First World War galleries, with more spent on educational projects involving every school in the country and a range of local heritage events and schemes. Those of us involved in the care of church buildings have already been receiving requests for the refurbishment of war memorials. In his speech, David Cameron called the First World War a fundamental part of our national consciousness.