France unveils new monument to commemorate WWI
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President François Hollande on Tuesday is presiding over a series of commemorations marking the end of World War I, culminating with the inauguration of a breathtaking new monument in northern France.
This year's centenary marks the 100th anniversary of the start of World War I, and Hollande opened France’s day of remembrance in Paris by laying a wreath at the foot of the statue of WWI war minister Georges Clemenceau, widely hailed in France as the architect of the victory against German-led forces.
The French president then performed the traditional lighting of the flame at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at the Arc de Triomphe, and a one-minute silence was held around France at 11:00 CET.
The president – who will be accompanied by Chancellor Merkel and British Prime Minister David Cameron – will then travel to the northern town of Ablain-Saint-Nazaire to inaugurate the new International Memorial of Notre Dame de Lorette, “Ring of Remembrance” by architect Philippe Prost.
The new 8-million euro memorial consists of 500 steel plates with the names of the 579,606 soldiers from around the world who died between 1914 and 1918.
The ring, a symbol of unity, is meant to bring together all of the fallen soldiers - regardless of their nationalities or religions.
A majority of the names – 241,214 – are British, alongside the 173,876 German names and 106,012 French.
Challenge of rememberance
In Britain, Queen Elizabeth II, veterans, political leaders, and dignitaries will gather at the historic Tower of London, against a backdrop of 800,000 ceramic poppies.
The flowers have for decades served as a reminder of sacrifice and the brutal human cost of war in many countries.
In the 1980s, as the number of surviving First World War veterans quickly fell, some commentators believed that remembrance would come to fade away.
However, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) has seen its web traffic more than double since last year, with increasing numbers of people eager to trace their family history.
Peter Francis, of the CWGC, said, "While every Remembrance Day is important, this first Remembrance Day of the Centenary of the First World War is particularly poignant.
"Sadly, the veterans of the Great War are no longer with us and our challenge is to make the war, and remembrance of it, relevant to new generations."
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