The Great War, 100 Years Later

This month marks the beginning of 100th-anniversary commemorations of World War I, fought mainly in Europe, but with armies drawn from all corners of the globe.

The war was set in motion by the assassination of Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife, Sophie, by a Serb nationalist on June 28, 1914, in Sarajevo, now capital of Bosnia-Herzegovina.

After a month of tense negotiation, Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia on July 28.  The first salvos were fired by Austro-Hungarian river gunboats that night against Serbian fortifications on the Danube, near Belgrade.  Interlocking alliances led Germany, Russia, France and Britain to declare war on each other.

The fighting began in earnest on Aug. 4, when German forces crossed into Belgium with Liège as their first objective.

The war killed 10 million people, most of them soldiers, before the armistice was signed in France and took effect on Nov. 11, 1918.

For some countries and millions of people, the fighting barely paused before re-igniting, including in Russia, Germany, Poland, Greece and Turkey.

Below are commemorative events coming up for the rest of 2014, many running into 2015.  This calendar will be updated in September.


To contribute to this calendar, e-mail events to


For a detailed timeline of the war’s events, from the BBC, go to:


During: The Spark that Ignited War. Thousand of cyclists will join a “Peace Ride” ride through Sarajevo to remember those lost in many wars.

Note:  Activities in Sarajevo, and in Bosnia and Serbia generally, may be curtailed as the region recovers from the intense flooding of last May.

The Bosnian capital will also hold historical conferences, exhibitions and theater performances to mark the assassination June 28, 1914, of Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife, Sophie, by a young Serb nationalist.

 The city’s Muzej Sarajeva–1878-1918 tells the story of Bosnia-Herzegovina under the Austro-Hungarian Empire, including the assassination, which took place just outside the building, at the intersection of the Obala Kulina Bana with the Latin Bridge. (Bosnia-Herzegovina).

Daily: Last Post. Buglers sound the British army’s call for fallen soldiers each evening at 8 p.m. at the Menin Gate, the huge memorial arch on which are engraved the names of 55,000 British and Commonwealth soldiers lost in Flanders during the war. The Last Call ceremony has been conducted each evening since 1928, except during World War II. Ypres (Belgium).

Reopened: Yser Tower. This 22-story museum and memorial offers a magnificent view of the Yser plain in Flanders, where the Belgian army held off the Germans for four years. Nearby is the Death Trench, remains of the Belgians’ most forward fortifications. Diksmuide (Belgium).

Through the 15th: Paris 14/18, la Guerre au Quotidien. Presenting views of Paris during the conflict, through 200 photos and the previously unpublished report by little-known photographer Charles Lansiaux (1855-1939). At the Bibliothèque Historique de la Ville de Paris.

Through the 15th: The Great War in Portraits. Paintings and photos of commanders, heroes, soldiers at war, victims. At the National Portrait Gallery. London.

Through June 25: Antwerp’s Forts in 1914. Exhibition retells the Belgian resistance in the forts that ringed the port, assaults in both directions, bombardment by Big Bertha guns and their ultimate surrender. At the KBC Tower.

Through the year: Historic Walks will take visitors to the Festival Hall (King Albert’s headquarters) and to the fortifications and the site of the pontoon bridge by which thousands escaped to the Netherlands.

Through June 30: War and Trauma. Soldiers & Ambulances. Exhibition at both the In Flanders Fields Museum in Ypres and the Museum Dr. Guislan in Ghent. How medical care sought to catch up with the great flow of casualties from industrial warfare. (Belgium).

Through June 30: War in Short Pants. How literature, comic books, magazines and toys were used to promote the “glory” of war and hate of the enemy on both sides. And how the Great War changed the status of children in Western society. St. Peter’s Abbey, Ghent.

Through July 7: Humanizing War? World War I will be a focus of this exhibition on the history of the International Committee of the Red Cross, created 150 years ago.  At the Musée Rath, Geneva.

Through Aug. 3: Fields of Battle–Lands of Peace.  Photos by Mike Sheil, presented on railings of Paris’s Jardin du Luxembourg, show the battlefields of 1914-1918 as they appear today, peaceful and green yet with trench lines and shell craters still visible.

Through Aug. 3: Summer 2014: Last days of the Old World.
 Presenting the chronology of events from July 23 to Aug. 4 and the sequence of decisions leading up to declarations of hostilities. The end of the exhibition deals with the shock of the war’s actual commencement. At the Bibliothèque Nationale de France in Paris.

Through Sept. 1: Ravage: Art & Culture in Times of Conflict. The August 1914 burning of the University Library of Leuven is the starting point of this exhibition. Works by old masters and contemporary artists demonstrate how cultural treasures are often targeted in war. At the M Museum in Leuven (Belgium).
The tower of the University Library, rebuilt after both world wars, will be open to the public permanently. The view of the city and countryside is spectacular.

Through Sept. 28: Mechelen’s War Artists. Works of Rik Verheyen, Alfred Ost and, especially, of Rik Wouters who witnessed his city under attack and occupation. At the Stedelijke Musea Mechelen.

Through April 16: EXPO: 14-18, It’s Our History! A broad-view exhibition on the war and the German occupation in Belgium, and how it profoundly directed the history of the 20th century and influences the lives of Europeans today. Personal accounts and multi-media presentations. At the Royal Museum of the Army. Brussels.

Through May 31: From Street to Trench: A War That Shaped a Region. How the war changed lives in Northwest England, including Manchester and Liverpool.  At the Imperial War Museum North in Manchester.

Through Nov. 11, 2015: Signed, the Artist. Antwerp’s Middelheim Museum will present works of artists whose lives were interrupted by the war. Special focus will be on German sculptor Käthe Kollwitz, whose 18-year old son is buried in the German cemetery at Vladso. Her Grieving Parents monument stands nearby, and was followed by many works dealing with war.


14-Nov. 11: Visages et Vestiges de la Grande Guerre. At the center are photo portraits taken between 1996 and 2007, of surviving French soldiers at 100 years old. After the 2008 death of the last of them, Lazare Ponticelli, Didier Pazery also gathered images of the old frontline and still-life photos of objects belonging to The Great War Museum in Meaux. All are presented at Paris’s
emblematic Gare de l’Est, from which hundreds of thousands of soldiers departed for the front.

19: First World War Galleries Open. The story of the war in 14 sections at the incomparable Imperial War Museum, which has been closed to prepare this vast exhibition. Iconic posters, huge ship models, a Sopwith Camel, a trench recreated, weapons, photos, maps. London.

23-27: Memories of August 1914. The 40-foot marionettes of France’s Royal de Luxe group recollect the early days of the war in a patriotic England. Liverpool.


3: Heroes at Highclere. The manor house setting for the fictional “Downton Abbey” really was transformed into a hospital during World War I. The Kings Troop Royal Artillery will lead military and observances, including flybys of vintage aircraft. Newbury, England.

4: International Service of Remembrance.  On the 100th anniversary of the day that the German army crossed into Belgium, King Philippe will host a service at the Memorial Interallie in Liège with Prince William and Catherine Duchess of Cambridge representing Britain and Pres. Joachim Gauck representing Germany.

The royal couple will be joined later by Prince Harry for a ceremony at the St. Symphorien cemetery near Mons, the last resting place of 229 Commonwealth and 284 German soldiers. The cemetery also includes the graves of the first and the last Commonwealth servicemen killed in action during the war.

4: Candlelight Vigil at Westminster Abbey. Marking the day that Britain entered the war in support of Belgium. During readings, music, meditation, candles will go dark one by one. London.

5-Nov. 11: Ceramic Poppies at the Tower of London. An installation of 888,246 ceramic poppies, one for each British and Commonwealth fatality of the war.  This begins a four-year memorial program.

8-Dec. 15: Exhibition: The Old Contemptibles.  The original British force was comprised mostly of professionals who had served all over the Empire.  In the few weeks between the battles of Mons and Ypres, their numbers were reduced by half and they were reputedly maligned by the Kaiser as that “contemptible little army.” The survivors, whose story is told here, took that name for themselves. At the Memorial Museum Passchendaele 1917. Passchendaele (Belgium).

11-17: Martyr Cities: Aarschot. Focusing on civilian executions and destruction of ancient heritage. On the 15th, the city also celebrates the annual Festival of St. Roch. On the 16th, an evening concert will close with a light show. See also Leuven and Dendermonde below. (Belgium).

15-18: Kaiserfest and Kaisermesse. Austrian Emperor Franz Josef I often celebrated his birthday at his beloved summer Kaiservilla in the small town of Bad Ischl. The tradition continues to this day with concerts and a High Mass, ending with the “Kaiserhymne.” The villa is now a museum, open to the public.

Franz Josef, 83, signed the fateful declaration of war on Serbia at the Kaiservilla on July 28, 1914. He left the next day, never to return, not even for the Kaiserfest. (Austria).

17-Dec. 15: Dendermonde in Ruins. Exhibition uses personal anecdotes, photos and archival material to tell how this Flemish town near Antwerp was destroyed and how the survivors struggled. A Martyr City concert program takes place Sept. 5-7.

24-25: Martyr Cities: Leuven. A recital of Mozart’s “Requiem” in the Monseigneur Ladeuze square and a light show evoking the fiery destruction of the University Library and ending with a message of peace.


6-Sept. 5, 2015: Heavy Traffic. An exhibition centered on the railway junction and station at Poperinge, through which tens of thousands of British Tommies moved up to the front over the years, while wounded and refugees were transported to safety. Presenting a 1:7.6 diorama and a scale-model of the hectic scene on a typical day during the war.


1-Jan. 4: Exhibition: The Battle of the Yser and the First Battle of Ypres. Vintage photos tell the story of the Belgian army’s first defeat of the Germans through the intentional flooding of the plain of the river Yser and shelling by British ships. The German army was also forestalled from taking vital Channel ports in the Race to the Sea. This corner of Flanders remained in Belgian hands for the duration of the war.

The Yser fighting melded into the First Battle of Ypres, in which the British and French took and defended this last strategic town before the coast. The British defended Ypres’ ruins (from which they launched mass attacks of their own) for the next four years of trench warfare.  The photos of Robert and Maurice Antony are at the In Flanders Fields museum, part of the rebuilt Cloth Hall, Ypres.

3-5: Peace Bridge Across the Scheldt. Engineers will recreate the pontoon bridge across the Scheldt estuary by which much of the Belgian Army and thousands of citizens escaped a burning Antwerp.
The temporary bridge will be open for all to walk from the city to the western bank for one weekend, with a children’s parade and a dance performance on the opening night.
The 13-day siege of Antwerp slowed down the German advance, and the escaping Belgian units were able to score their first victory on the river Yser later in October. Antwerp.

14: Bruges at War. Three exhibitions at the Stadshallen focus on the medieval city of canals after it was taken by the German army in October 1914.  One focuses on daily life, including resistance and collaboration; the second on photo images from the time pulled together by Carl De Keyzer; the third on contemporary war images shot by De Keyzer and nine fellow Magnum photographers.

15-Jan. 30, 2015: Vu du Front 1914-1918.
 How the Western Front was perceived then, through paintings, drawings, posters, photographs and maps of the period, as well as through weapons, uniforms and wreckage.

At the Musée de l’Armée Hôtel National des Invalides in Paris. There is also a large, permanent exhibition covering the two world wars.

18: Flooding of the Plain Concert.  Four Belgian bands will play original compositions inspired by the flooding of the Yser plain that halted the German advance. Nieuwpoort.

25: First Battle of Ypres Remembered. Worcesters and South Wales Borderers regiments in Gheluvelt, and the Household Cavalry in Zandvoorde.  Also, an evening concert of a new production “Home @ Xmas” in Zonnebeke. Flanders.

Flanders has mounted a most ambitious series of commemorations and events to mark the World War here.


8: Fall of Diksmuide Concert. Einstürzende Neubauten, a futuristic  band from Berlin led by Blixa Bargeld, will perform a completely new piece to mark the 100th anniversary of the fall of the last Flemish town taken by the German armies. Part of the Gone West celebrations.

9: 1,000 Voices for Peace! Singers from many of the countries—on both sides—that suffered through World War I will take part in an oratorio written for the occasion by Polish composer Krzysztof Penderecki. To be presented by the Flanders Festival Brussels.

9: Remembrance Sunday.  The main day of remembrance in Britain.  Held every year on the second Sunday in November to recall the armistice and the sacrifice, and centered on the Cenotaph on Whitehall in London, with two minutes of silence at 11 a.m. followed by a wreath-laying led by the Queen and the Royal family.

In Ireland, Remembrance Sunday is marked by a ceremony at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin, in which the Irish president takes part.

Ceremonies also take place at the Irish National War Memorial Gardens in Dublin, dedicated to the 49,000 Irish soldiers killed in action.  In 2013, Enda Kenny, the prime minister, joined in Remembrance Day ceremonies in Northern Ireland.

11: Armistice Remembrance.  In other countries, the fallen are remembered every year in ceremonies on the armistice anniversary. Notably at Menin Gate in Ypres, beginning at the 11th hour when the armistice took effect on Nov. 11, 1918; at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at the Arc de Triomphe in Paris; in the Forest of Compiègne, in France, where the armistice was signed aboard a railway car once used by Napoleon III, by French Gen. Ferdinand Foch and Germany’s Matthias Erzberger, a civilian envoy from the chancellor.


12-22: Christmas Truce Concerts. Musicians, including John Cale (of Velvet Underground fame), Alan Stivel (reviving Celtic music), and Virgina McKenna and the Voices at the Door will perform in unique concerts inspired by the impromptu Christmas truce of 1914 that brought momentary peace to the Flanders trenches.
Commanders were disapproving, but thousands of men on both sides sang carols, chatted with the enemy, exchanged small gifts and even played football.

13: Forgotten Winter: Remembering the French role in Flanders in 1914, at the French memorial in Broodseinde and the French cemetery in Ypres.

We will update this calendar of World War I commemorative events in on a regular basis.