SOUTH Tynesiders will pay their respects to victims of the First World War at a special church service and ceremony tonight.
Civic dignitaries, MPs, the Armed Forces community and members of the public will come together as part of a national day of commemorations.
It is to mark the centenary of the day the conflict started, and will get under way at 7pm tonight at St Hilda’s Church, in Market Place, South Shields.
It will be led by Rev Chris Fuller, and will be followed by a Beating Retreat military ceremony at 8pm at South Shields Town Hall, in Westoe Road.
Rev Fuller, who has formerly worked with the forces as a civilian chaplain, said: “One cannot imagine the devastation and massive loss caused here in South Tyneside and across the country by the First World War.
“It may have been 100 years ago, but things are different because of what happened. It had a massive impact on every family.
“That generation may no longer be with us, but all our families will have heard stories and memories from older relatives. I can remember my own grandfather telling me of his own experiences.
“It is important that we come together to remember the sacrifices made by so many.
“We continue to live in uncertain times. The First World War was described as ‘the war to end all wars’, but that clearly wasn’t the case, as even today we seem unable to reconcile our differences without resorting to warfare, which is tragic for everyone.
“We need to honour and remember the sacrifices made in the past, as well as working out a way to get through life without having to resort to conflict.
“I am honoured to be leading the service, and we hope as many people as possible will attend.”
The event has been organised by the South Tyneside Armed Forces Forum, and is one of thousands of events taking place across the country today to mark the 100th anniversary of the start of the war.
Coun Ed Malcolm, South Tyneside’s armed forces champion, said: “The Great War had a far-reaching impact.
“It changed the face of Britain and the lives of so many people, not just soldiers and their families, but all those who contributed to the war effort.
“This important anniversary will see the whole country come together to reflect and remember those who paid the ultimate sacrifice.
“Here in South Tyneside, we are holding this special service and ceremony to give local people an opportunity to pay tribute and honour the many people who lost their lives during the four-year conflict.
“This occasion will also help to raise awareness among our younger generations of the significance of this key event in world history.”
The Mayor of South Tyneside, Coun Fay Cunningham, added: “It is really important for people to remember what happened during the First World War.
“Although it was 100 years ago, it is still relevant today, with our British troops continuing to play a vital role in peacekeeping missions all over the world.”
The service and ceremony tonight is the first in a series of events taking place in South Tyneside over the next four years to mark the centenary of the First World War.
St Hilda’s Church also has a permanent memorial to those miners who died during the First World War, which families are welcome to visit.