Bath Abbey to hold candlelit vigil for First World War

Looking up at Bath Abbey
A View of Bath Abbey on May 7, 2014. (Photo by Todd DeFeo)

Hundreds are expected to gather at Bath Abbey in Bath, England, for a special candlelit vigil to mark 100 years since the start of World War I.

The vigil is scheduled from 10 p.m. until 11 p.m. on Aug. 4. The Abbey will be lit with hundreds of candles which will be extinguished one by one until the final candle is blown out at 11 p.m. the moment of Britain’s ultimatum to Germany and when war was declared.

The vigil at Bath Abbey is one of a number planned in churches across England, including the national service at Westminster Abbey in London. More than 1,000 free tickets will be available at the Bath Box Office starting Monday, July 14; the service will be broadcast into the Abbey Churchyard for anyone without tickets.

“Drawing upon Sir Edward Grey’s famous remark that, ‘The lights are going out all over Europe,’ Bath Abbey will join Westminster Abbey and other churches throughout the country on the night of Monday 4 August to mark the Centenary of the start of the First World War,” Rev. Claire Robson, vicar pastor at Bath Abbey, who will be leading the candlelit vigil, said in a news release. “I’d urge everyone in Bath to join us if you can. The start of the First World War changed the lives of millions of people across the world, including those of men, women and children right here in Bath.

“Today, 100 years later, we can join together at the very moment war would have been declared, not just to remember the start of the war, but also to reflect on the terrible cost in human lives in Bath, across the nation and on all sides of this devastating conflict,” Robson added. “It’s an opportunity for each one of us to take a moment to remember and honour those who served in the battlefields and the homefront, those who lost their lives as well as those whose lives were changed forever.”

The Bath Abbey vigil will also include music from the Abbey’s Choirs, memoirs of Bath residents, scripture and poetry. At the heart of the service will be the stories of the ordinary men and women who served in World War I. One of the many locals who will be remembered includes a volunteer nurse, Kathleen Ainsworth, who worked tirelessly at the Bath War Hospital tending to the sick and wounded.

Some of her experiences during the war will be recounted using the letters she sent to her family in Swindon. Another individual whose story will be heard is Stanley Streat, a former pupil at Kingswood School who had emigrated to Canada and joined the Canadian Army Medical Corps in order to “do his bit.” He was wounded while serving with the 10th Field Ambulance, and after recovering, volunteered to go back: he was killed by a shell in August 1918 while trying to rescue wounded comrades.

His courage and devotion are still remembered by the school, and commemorated in the school chapel which was built as a memorial to those who lost their lives in the Great War.

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