THE lights went out and silence fell last night as Hampshire remembered the day Britain joined in the First World War.
The late night vigils held across the county came after the Royal British Legion encouraged people to turn out their lights and leave a single candle burning in tribute to those who served in the “war to end all wars”.
The gesture was echoing the fateful words of Sir Edward Grey, Foreign Secretary in 1914, who on the eve of the war declared: “The lamps are going out all over Europe, we shall not see them lit again in our lifetime.”
Street lights across Hampshire were also dimmed last night following official commemorations.
More than 60 people gathered by Southampton cenotaph to observe a quiet and poignant vigil.
The usually floodlit memorial was shrouded in darkness, with only the flicker of hand-held candles lighting the assembled descendents of the fallen.
Betty Rutherford, 79, from Millbrook was remembering her uncle Albert, from Bargate Street, Southampton, whom she never knew because he was killed as a teenage recruit, having lied about his age so he could serve his king and country.
She said: “My mother never talked about it and her mother was broken hearted. He was one of the youngest sons.
“I think the vigil is a nice idea. I think it brings home to people the sacrifice that was made.”
Another attending the vigil was Charles Young, 75, from South Front in Southampton, who was paying tribute to his two fallen uncles, Thomas, who was killed aged just 20, and Robert aged 22.
He said: “Of course it happened a long time ago, but we should never forget. I think it is important that you remember your dead.”
In Winchester the light of dozens of candles flickered amid the darkness of the cathedral.
From 10pm last night for an hour several hundred people took part in Lights Out, a vigil of remembrance.
The Dean of Winchester, the Very Rev James Atwell, said of the anniversary: “One of the things you suddenly realise is that all those thousands of names on war memorials across the land are real people.”
The vigil was a reflective service, including excerpts from letters, newspaper cuttings and even film.
Earlier a commemorative work of art was unveiled outside the cathedral. Box 459 is a steel box with 459 holes in it to mark the number of soldiers from Winchester killed between 1914-18.
Its creator, local architect Andy Ramus, said last night: “How could we connect the people of Winchester and the war. And then I thought of the number of dead.”
A vigil was also held at Eastleigh at the town’s war memorial.
Across Hampshire thousands of households paid tribute to their fallen family members with burning candles in the window.
It followed a day of commemoration events.
The Great Hall in Winchester staged a Hampshire Commemorates day focusing on exhibitions being held across the county.
During the morning in Fareham the Last Post was sounded and the town’s major, Cllr David Norris, released doves and unveiled a commemorative stone in West Street.
Children from Good Manors nursery performed songs and there was live music from the FB pocket orchestra. The mayor also placed the final poppy in a field of 100 poppies.
In the town’s Westbury Manor Museum a ‘recruitment office’ was opened and at Trinity Church a display of Great War grave photographs and history was unveiled.
A commemoration exhibit was also opened at Colden Common Community Centre containing letters and photos. They will be on show until Saturday.
Today Portsmouth-based offshore patrol ship HMS Mersey will fire a gun salute to mark the first shot fired at sea by the Royal Navy in the First World War.
The National Museum of the Royal Navy in Portsmouth has organised the commemoration, which will involve two gun salutes being fired with a minute’s silence in between.
The salute is being held in the Solent ahead of the start of the Britannia Cup yachting race during Cowes Week.