World War One centenary dominates papers

All the national newspapers record in some way on their front pages the way the UK marked the centenary of Britain's involvement in World War One.

Some, like the Times, focus on members of the Royal Family. Its wraparound cover features the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge paying their respects at a military cemetery in Mons, Belgium.

Others capture poppies raining down on members of the Great War Society dressed as Tommies for a commemorative ceremony at Bovington Tank Museum in Dorset, while some feature the oil lamp extinguished at the tomb of the unknown soldier in Westminster Abbey.

A few papers find room for other stories on the front, with the Daily Telegraph reporting that the leaders of the UK's three main parties have agreed to offer Scotland powers to raise its own tax in the event of a "No" vote in next month's independence referendum.

The i records criticism of a "lack of leadership" at the Home Office by the UK's outgoing border inspection chief, while the Financial Times interprets the chairman of HSBC's comments about employees becoming "risk averse" as the "latest sign that big banks are making a fresh push against regulation".

United in remembrance

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But most papers dedicate the bulk of their main news pages to dispatches from war ceremonies across Europe.

Valentine Low writes in the Times of cannon fire ringing out across the hills around the Belgian city of Liege, "just as they echoed to the sound of German guns 100 years ago as the first shots of the Great War were fired". He adds: "This time, however, the guns spoke of peace, and remembrance."

Of events at a joint military ceremony just over an hour away in Mons, the Daily Telegraph's Tom Rowley writes: "A century ago yesterday, patriotic young men from Britain and Germany were sent off to fight the war meant to end all wars. In those same fields yesterday, where four years of slaughter began, both nations met again. Where once they were divided by guns and by trenches, now they were united in remembrance."

Writes Anil Dawar, in the Daily Express: "The pine trees and manicured lawns of the cemetery in Mons stand in stark contrast to the terrifying battlefields of the First World War where its occupants met their deaths. But the twilight ceremony at St Symphorien yesterday made sure those battlefields and the soldiers' sacrifice were not forgotten."

The Metro's front-page headline, quoting Prince William against a photograph of his wife, the Duchess of Cambridge, laying a floral tribute at the ceremony, sums things up by saying: "We were enemies... today we are friends."

Poppies and candles

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Like the Star, Mirror and Mail, the Metro redesigns its masthead to include a poppy. And both the Star and Daily Express feature striking images of the flowers raining down over a re-enactment group dressed as WW1 British soldiers at an event in Dorset.

The Mirror prints an image of an art project at the Tower of London where "the moat... has been turned into a blood-red river as ceramic poppies are planted to honour all of those troops who fell". Meanwhile, over two pages, the Daily Mail features a photograph of the Queen "seemingly lost in thought" in the tiny private chapel at her Scottish holiday estate Balmoral.

The Sun was among the papers to describe how "at homes and famous buildings across the nation lights were extinguished at 22:00 for an hour - with a single flame or candle left burning in memory to the millions who died".

Mick Brown, in the Telegraph, writes: "At Westminster Abbey, an hour-long candlelit service attended by the Duchess of Cornwall, which marked the culmination of the commemorations, was measured by the extinguishing of five symbolic candles, as Guardsmen representing the four nations of the United Kingdom stood vigil at the Grave of the Unknown Warrior."

Landmarks including Blackpool Tower and the Houses of Parliament were "plunged into darkness", writes Mark Reynolds in the Daily Express. "The nationwide gesture was inspired by the words of Sir Edward Grey, Foreign Secretary in 1914, who movingly remarked on the evening of August 4: 'The lamps are going out all over Europe. We shall not see them lit again in our life-time.'"

'Well-judged words'

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Several writers note that the tone of remembrance does not always sit easily in today's world.

Writing in the Independent, Archie Bland describes a "strange but necessary commemoration", one in which people found it difficult to square the past and present and where "you had to acknowledge a certain tonal awkwardness as the day wore on".

Matthew Engel, in the Financial Times, writes: "Despite all the well-judged words the war itself, now almost gone from living memory, seemed very, very distant in a way the anniversary of the 70th anniversary of D-Day in June did not: the uncomplicated certainties of that war give it continued resonance. It is almost impossible to believe, never mind remember, the strange mood of August 1914."

Several papers draw comparisons between the hopes of a war "to end all wars" and current conflicts, with the Guardian juxtaposing its front-page description of events with a story about the latest in the Gaza situation.

The Independent's Grace Dent writes: "What, I found myself thinking, is the exact point of this grand fuss acknowledging the First World War's horror when the remaining news headlines proved that not one iota about the unspeakable, pointless carnage of war had been learned?"

As the Daily Star's editorial puts it: "At the bitter end [of the war], people believed the bloodbath had been the war to end all wars. How wrong they were. A century later and the world is still locked in a string of bloody battles raging across the planet."

Times cartoonist Peter Brookes makes this point by drawing a Lord Kitchener-style recruitment poster, replacing the famous moustachioed war secretary with Israeli PM Benjamin Netenyahu declaring: "Israel needs YOU... to support our Gaza schools initiative."

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