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First World War centenary: Rochester Cathedral display shares poignant message

Gardeners at Rochester Cathedral are used to praise for their manicured lawns and neatly pruned rose beds.

Now, to commemorate today’s 100th anniversary of the outbreak of the First World War, they have created an eye-catching memorial which has become the talk of the town.

The green-fingered team has spent the last five weeks planning and making the display in the cathedral gardens opposite the Deanery.

Rochester Cathedral's First World War garden memorial
Rochester Cathedral's First World War garden memorial

It forms part of a four-year programme of anniversaries identified by the Church of England starting with the outbreak of the conflict and ending in Armistice.

Entitled The War That Didn’t End War, it is being overseen in the Rochester Diocese by Canon Neil Thompson.

"It only went up on Thursday but is already a talking point" - Canon Thompson

Canon Thompson said: “It is extremely imaginative and gave our gardeners a break from weeding and mowing and let them do something creative.

"It only went up on Thursday but is already a talking point. It also achieves one of our goals to reach out in the community outside the church and get strangers talking.

“Our real concern is to make contact and conversation with the community by building bridges between the church and the community.

“We have displays and services going on in the cathedral but we wanted to get the message outside.”

He added: "The programme is about honouring our dead and looking at different aspects of war and the message is that it did not end war. There are still wars going on today.”

Riley Webster, 4, at the garden memorial at Rochester Cathedral
Riley Webster, 4, at the garden memorial at Rochester Cathedral

Lights will go out across Medway tonight in memory of the hour Britain declared war on Germany 100 years ago.

A nationwide hour of remembrance will take place from 10pm until 11pm when people will leave a single light or candle for a moment of reflection.

The initiative – dubbed Lights Out – is inspired by the quote of former Foreign Secretary, Sir Edward Grey, who is said to have remarked on the evening of August 3. 1914: “The lamps are going out all over Europe; we shall not see them lit again in our lifetime.”

The next evening, at 11pm, Britain declared war on Germany.

The cathedral is hosting a commemorative service at 10pm. MPs and the Lord Lieutenant are expected to attend the service, which will include a moment to reflect the Lights Out initiative. Medway Council confirmed lights will be turned off at council headquarters in Gun Wharf

Chatham’s Fort Amherst will be unveiling its First World War gun today. The Napoleonic fort played a significant role training of thousands of Royal Engineer recruits throughout the war. In addition some of the world’s first anti-aircraft guns were mounted there.

The gun being unveiled today, which was manufactured in 1915, commemorates the role these weapons played in defending the area from attacks by Zeppelin airships and fixed wing bombers on naval and military installations in Chatham.

The gun was gifted to Fort Amherst by the Manston Spitfire Museum and has undergone restoration over the past 18 months by volunteers.

Churches across Medway will be marking the anniversary with a series of vigils and services.
Villagers from Bredhurst will meet outside the primary school before a lantern-lit procession to the church led by the Army cadets Corps of Drums before a 10.30pm service.

St Margaret’s Church, Rainham, is open from 10am - 4pm and 6pm - 7.30pm for a display of personal family art-facts, medals and letters followed by a short prayer vigil at 7.30pm.

Hoo St Werburgh Parish Church will be be open from 8.30am-7.30pm, and there will be a vigil from 10am - 11am and prayers will also be said at 8.30am and 7pm.

St Augustine’s Church in Gillingham is open from 10am for quiet prayer and reflection and a service at 8pm.

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