Veterans gather in Holloway to honour casualties on WWI centenary
15:18 04 August 2014
Veterans, councillors and residents embarked on a four-year journey today, marking 100 years since the beginning of the First World War.
Poems, letters and reflections on the war were read to those assembled at Memorial Arch near Royal Northern Gardens, in Holloway, while Islington Council Choir gave hearty renditions of war-time classics Pack-up Your Troubles and Keep the Home Fires Burning.
A minutes silence was also held to remember almost 10,000 who were born or lived in Islington and died in the Great War.
Those who gathered were also told about The Streets Where They Lived Project, which will see more than 400 plaques listing the names of men who died just yards from where they used to live.
Cllr Janet Burgess, Islington Council’s executive member for heath and wellbeing, said: “Islington’s response to the First World War was typically spirited - raising huge sums of money and making public buildings available for injured soldiers and for drafting recruits.
“The war put an indelible stamp on Islington - our WWI heritage project gives unique insight into life in the borough during the war as well as publicly recording those who lost their lives in the conflict street by street.”
As well as at least 6,000 who lived in the borough and died in battle, the war also made more than 2,000 widows in Islington, a fact that John Shepherd, who designed the Streets Where They Live Project, says the heritage team intends to highlight towards the end of the four year commemorative project.
John Shepherd, the historian who designed the project, said: “Thousands from Islington and Finsbury were killed and displaced – the fact that so many men left and never returned, objectively, is a direct consequence of war.
“What we are trying to highlight is the impact that is left in such a place as Islington and in its streets.
“We wish to remind people that these men who died came from the same place as them.”
Islington has a military association – stretching back over 500 years when the British Army’s oldest serving regiment, The Honorary Artillery Company, arrived in the borough.
Mark Samson, chair of the Islington Veterans Association, was one of several former servicemen at the ceremony.
Mr Samson said: “Today was very poignant, and is going to be the first of many commemorations over the next four years.
“There are very few families in Islington that will not have been effected by the war, whether they were fighting or serving in munitions factories, it was a real world war.
“They fought in battle fields all over the world, not just in France but in Africa and the middle east.
“Even in Gaza, which shows we’re still fighting wars a hundred years on as a result of mistakes that have been made.
“Everyone in the borough would have made sacrifices during in the war, many gave their lives and others lives were changed drastically for the worse.”