In 1914, as today, Westminster School was not in session. The School’s annual summer holiday had begun in early July, a matter of days after the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria and his wife Sophie, Duchess of Hohenberg in Sarajevo. The event would have undoubtedly been discussed by pupils and masters at the school, but we have no records of their thoughts on the matter. By the time the school returned in September, war had been declared and over 100 Old Westminsters had signed up to fight.
Tonight there will be a solemn commemoration onthe centenary of the outbreak of the First World War in neighbouring Westminster Abbey. Drawing upon Sir Edward Grey’s famous remark that “the lights are going out all over Europe”, Westminster Abbey will mark the centenary by moving from light into darkness, until one candle remains at the Grave of the Unknown Warrior, which will be extinguished at 11pm to mark the moment of the declaration of war.
The Abbey Vigil will be broadcast live at 10.00pm on BBC2 and many churches and other organisations across the country will hold similar vigils.