First World War centenary

The First World War Centenary is the centenary of the First World War, which started on 28 July 2014 with commemorations of the outbreak of the war and ended on 11 November 2018.

Participating countries


In Australia, the occasion is known as the Anzac Centenary. Committees planning the event included the National Commission on the Commemoration of the Anzac Centenary and the Anzac Centenary Advisory Board. The government had budgeted $83.5M for a seven-year programme which will include commemorative events in Australia and overseas; educational activities and resources; and refurbishments of galleries and war graves.[2] The Brisbane City Council has spent $13.4 million to refurbish the Shrine of Remembrance, Brisbane located in ANZAC Square and $1 million revitalising 31 suburban war memorials.[3] Many commemorative events were organised by governments and other organisations.[4] In 2015 the Australian Government committed a further $100M to the Anzac Centenary for the creation of the Sir John Monash Centre, unveiled on Anzac Day 2018.[5] It is the Western Front's most expensive visitor centre. During the centenary of the First World War, Australia is said to have spent more than any other country put together to celebrate the Anzacs.[6]


The centenary of World War I was marked by a program of exhibition, lectures and academic research focusing on the theme of Belgian involvement in the conflict and the occupation. The Royal Museum of the Armed Forces and Military History in Brussels hosted an exhibition titled "Expo 14–18: It's Our History" from 2014 to 2015.[7]

Bosnia and Herzegovina

The city of Sarajevo, where the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand took place, organized a commemoration in the period 21–28 June 2014. The event was named "Sarajevo, heart of Europe".[8]

Filmmaker Emir Kusturica announced an initiative to hold a ceremony on 28 June 2014, in which a re-trial of Gavrilo Princip would be started. The motivation behind the initiative was that Austria-Hungary never ratified the annexation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and that a verdict of high treason therefore should be considered illegal. "It was a political murder, but definitely not high treason. If Princip was convicted of murder, it wouldn't have been possible to sentence him to lifetime imprisonment", Kusturica commented. Further, he will exhibit letters written by Oskar Potiorek, and argues that they prove that a war was planned long before the Sarajevo Assassination.[9]


The centenary of the First World War was commemorated on 3 August, the date of the German declaration of war on France. A wreath-laying ceremony was held at the National War Memorial, before continuing at the Canadian War Museum. During the ceremony, Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced the permanent extension of the Ceremonial Guard's sentry hours, from Vimy Ridge Day to Remembrance Day.[10]

Other tributes were also held in Halifax, where lights were shut off at major landmarks, and an ecumenical service at the Basilica of St. John the Baptist in St. John's.[10] The event was also commemorated in Toronto in an event organized by the tourism office for Flanders, where a group of men in newsboy costumes distributed fictitious historical newspaper describing the major events of the war.[11] The centenary of the war was also the theme of the 93rd annual Warrior's Day Parade, held on 10 August at Toronto's Canadian National Exhibition.[12]

Czech Republic

The Czech Radio ran several accounts on the social networks where they are remembering all the events from the World War I day-by-day. That was accompanied by a special website with an archive of radio programmes with stories from World War I.

The Czech Republic was part of Austria–Hungary.


The cultural network "Golden Days" planned a commemoration in September 2014, "1914, the Gateway to Modern Europe".

Denmark remained neutral during World War I and did not take part in the warfare. The biggest event from a Danish perspective is the reunification with Northern Schleswig (Sønderjylland) in 1920. After the Second War of Schleswig in 1864, Denmark was forced to cede Schleswig and Holstein to Prussia. In 1918, the Versailles powers offered to return the region of Schleswig-Holstein to Denmark. After the Schleswig Plebiscites Northern Schleswig (Sønderjylland) was recovered by Denmark in 1920. The reunion day (Genforeningsdag) is celebrated every 15 June on Valdemarsdag.


In France, the government carried out a policy of national remembrance.[13] An early start was made in 2011 with the opening of Le Musée de la Grande Guerre in Meaux on Armistice Day.[14][15] France set up an official board for the commemoration of the centenary under the name of Mission du Centenaire.[16]

A military ceremony at the Arc de Triomphe took place on November 11, 2018 and was led by President Emmanuel Macron. It was broadcast to Europe and the world by the European Broadcasting Union. Representatives from nearly 30 organizations and about 180 countries, included more than 100 world leaders, took part in the ceremony (see below). The Paris Peace Forum was also organized as part of the celebrations and attracted many of the same guests.


The centenary of the First World War was marked in Ireland. A cross of sacrifice was erected in Glasnevin in Dublin, which also included a joint Irish-British commemoration ceremony.[17] A season of First World War programmes will also be broadcast on RTÉ.[18]


The Centenary commemorations were marked primarily in Taita Taveta County, with events starting from 16 August 2014 and going on for another 5 years. Kenya, known as British East Africa during World War I, borders Tanzania, then known as German East Africa. Taita Taveta County was therefore the site of several important battles in what was known as the East African Campaign of World War I. The German Schutztruppe occupied Taveta and built fortified outposts with an intention of blocking the British from using the Voi-Taveta Railway. Major battle sites and commemoration locations include:

  • The German outpost on Salaita Hill where a big battle was fought on 12 February 1916, followed by a German retreat towards the Kenya-Tanzania border.[19]
  • Latema and Rianta Hills where a major battle was fought between 12 and 16 March 1916, the final World War I battle in British colonial territory.[20]
  • Mile 27 on the Voi-Maktau Railway[21]
  • Fortifications at Maktau [22]
  • Mashoti Fort [23]
  • Mbuyuni [24]

Commemorations will also take place at the Voi, Maktau and Taveta Commonwealth War Graves. The commemorations will be held in conjunction with the National Museums of Kenya, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and the Kenya Wildlife Service.[25]

New Zealand

New Zealand government agencies and other organisations worked together on commemorations to mark the centenary, which was identified as WW100.[26] The commemorations are being led by the Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage, Maggie Barry. A WW100 Programme Office has been established by the Ministry for Culture and Heritage along with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the New Zealand Defence Force and the Department of Internal Affairs.

New Zealand's centenary commemorations honoured those who fought, but also told the stories of the people who remained at home.[27] $17 million in lottery funding has been allocated by the Lottery Grants Board to commemorate the First World War Centenary.[28]

The New Zealand Government’s key centenary projects included the development of a National War Memorial Park in Wellington, an education / interpretation centre at the National War Memorial, a series of new histories, and the Ngā Tapuwae New Zealand First World War Trails [29] in Gallipoli and along the Western Front.

A First World War Centenary Panel was established, chaired by Brian Roche of New Zealand Post. The Panel's role was to advocate for the First World War Centenary, attract sponsorship or philanthropic support for centenary projects, coordinate with any equivalent bodies overseas, particularly Australia; and provide advice to the government on the centenary commemorations.[30] Dame Anne Salmond, Bob Harvey, Dr Monty Soutar, Matthew Te Pou[31] and Sir Peter Jackson[32] are all involved.

Several media commentators have criticized different aspects of the official Centenary commemorations. Professor Bryce Edwards noted on 24 April 2015: "As the nation moves into commemorating the Anzac Day centenary, there are growing signs of WWI overload and fatigue."[33]


Official Anzac Day commemorations were held at Gallipoli, Turkey over two days beginning on 25 April 2015 to mark the 100th anniversary of the Gallipoli landing. The commemoration was attended by the following leaders :

A service was held during the dawn of 25 April to remember fallen soldiers.[34] [35]

United Kingdom

In the United Kingdom, the Imperial War Museum (IWM) led a national programme of commemorative events and planned new galleries for the occasion ([36] In May 2010 the museum launched its First World War Centenary Partnership Programme.[37] Partner organisations receive access to IWM collections objects and expertise, and to digital resources, branding and a collaborative extranet.[38] By November 2011, 330 national and international organisations had become partners.[37] The museum also opened a new permanent First World War gallery at its London branch on 19 July 2014,[39] as part of a £35 million redevelopment of the building.[37]

In November 2011, it was announced that Prime Minister David Cameron had appointed Andrew Murrison MP as his special representative for First World War centenary commemorations.[40] On 11 October 2012, Cameron announced £50 million to fund national centenary commemorations. The anniversaries of Britain's declaration of war on Germany, the opening of the Battle of the Somme, the Battle of Jutland, and the November 1918 Armistice will be marked by national commemorations. The redevelopment of the Imperial War Museum, where Cameron delivered his speech, will be supported by an additional £5 million. A further £5.3 million will fund visits to Western Front battlefields by pupils from English schools. The Heritage Lottery Fund will provide £15 million to community projects, led by young people, to conserve local heritage associated with the war. In addition the preservation of the former Royal Navy light cruiser HMS Caroline, which served at the Battle of Jutland, will be supported by a grant of up to £1 million.[41]

The Heritage Lottery Fund provided funding to educational projects in fields such as local history, online access to museums and archives, youth heritage projects - such as the Great War Live archive site, which showcases the war day by day as it happens, family history, the preservation of war memorials, and the conservation of historic artefacts.[42]

The BBC planned a First World War centenary season of around 2,500 hours of television, radio and online programming over four years. The programming included documentaries, drama, arts and music, commemorative programmes and programmes for children and schools.[43]

On 14 January 2014, the National Archives released a first batch of digitised British Army war diaries. The same day, the National Archives, together with Imperial War Museums and Zooniverse launched 'Operation War Diary', a crowdsourcing project to tag data on each diary page.[44]

The installation Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red at the Tower of London, by Paul Cummins and Tom Piper, was especially popular — over five million people visited it before it closed in November 2014, with calls for it to be extended. Most of the ceramic poppies were sold to the public and special features from it have been preserved to go on tour and then be displayed in the Imperial War Museum. Artistic reception was mixed but the Queen praised the exhibit in her Christmas message and the artists were honoured in the new year.[45][46][47] A similar tribute, Beyond the Deepening Shadow, in which 10,000 flames were lit, again at the Tower of London, and designed by Piper, was installed to mark the centenary of the end of the war. It ran nightly, ending on Armistice Day (11 November) 2018.[48]

The Shrouds of the Somme was laid out at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park from 8 to 18 November 2018 to commemorate the 72,396 servicemen from the British Commonwealth with no known grave recorded at Thiepval Memorial as missing presumed dead in the Battle of the Somme; the work comprises 72,396 small human figurines, each separately wrapped in a calico shroud which was cut and sewn by hand.[49]

United States

The United States World War One Centennial Commission was established in 2013. The Commission planned, developed, and executed programs, projects, and activities to commemorate the centennial of World War One. A large part of its mandate was to encourage private organizations and State and local governments to organize and participate in activities that commemorate the centennial of World War I and to facilitate and coordinate activities throughout the U.S. The Commission will also serve as a "clearinghouse" for information about events and plans for commemoration.[50]

International organizations

The European Union

The European Union marked the occasion with a special meeting of Prime Ministers or Presidents of the 28 EU members in Ieper (Ypres) which included the national leaders standing together at the Menin Gate while the Last Post is being played.

The European Broadcasting Union (EBU)

The European Broadcasting Union (EBU) organised a concert in Sarajevo with the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra. It took place in the library that had recently been renovated from the devastation of the 1990s wars of disintegration of Yugoslavia, and which is adjacent to the site of the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, which triggered the war.


Europeana had three digital projects to commemorate the First World World across Europe. These made a range of materials freely available on the web.

  • Europeana Collections 1914–1918, which will make available 425,000 items from European libraries.
  • Europeana 1914–1918, which digitizes and makes available stories and objects brought to collection days across Europe.
  • EFG1418, the European Film Gateway collection of films and related documents from the war.

Red Cross

The Red Cross had an archive of records about the twenty million soldiers that were captured or buried by other countries. It planned to put all these paper records online for the centenary.


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