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WW1 Commemoration with the Power of Words

Letter to an Unknown SoldierWe have many things to be thankful for.  Next time you have an argument, so trivial you can’t even remember what started it or are feeling bored, discontented, pessimistic…just put things into perspective.  No, this isn’t an article on self-help or personal improvement.  What prompted this reflection is the start of the World War I centenary commemorations.


Countless risked, suffered and died so that we may live in a better world.  Granted we have yet to see universal peace but think how much worse it could be.

In our last newsletter we encouraged our subscribers to share their thoughts about WW1 by sending a “Letter to an Unknown Soldier”.  Commissioned by 14-18 NOW; produced in association with Free Word and in conjunction with the BBC, this is a different type of war memorial, one made only of words from thousands of people.

They have kindly written and allowed us to use the excerpt below along with the photo:

LETTER TO AN UNKNOWN SOLDIER, the digital memorial created by Neil Bartlett and Kate Pullinger is part of the 14-18 NOW programme of cultural commissions to commemorate World War One.

16,000 people have already written letters to the memorial, which is inspired by Charles Sargeant Jagger’s statue of a soldier reading a letter on Platform One at Paddington Station.

Letters are pouring in from people of all ages, from 4-90 years old, from grandmothers and Gurkhas, midwives, musicians, schoolchildren, students, teachers, politicians and prisoners.

Letters are being sent from as far away as China, Brazil, South Africa, USA, Australia, India and Egypt.

Distinguished writers, personalities and politicians who have written letters to the soldier include: A L Kennedy, Joanna Lumley, Stephen Fry, Sheila Hancock, Sebastian Faulks, Dawn French, Lee Child, Andrew Motion, Lesley Pearce, Malorie Blackman and the Prime Minister David Cameron.

Our team of editorial moderators are reading every single letter that comes in.  If you need some inspiration, they’ve come up with a wish list of letters that they’d love to see.  Their ideas include letters from the ghost of Archduke Ferdinand, a Time Traveller, a prisoner forced to enlist, a spy, and a woman fighting at the front disguised as a man.

All the letters are published online and the entire collection will eventually be archived in the British Library web archive.

Everyone can contribute a letter until 11pm on 4 August by visiting the 1418now website.  For the latest news, you can also follow them on Twitter (@1418now, #1418now, #WW1).”

In addition to “Letter to an Unknown Soldier”, we’ve also put together a list of places where you can find out more information about World War 1 and gripping pieces that tell the “story” with words.

Detailed History of World War 1

The Guardian’s Fascinating Interactive WW1 Documentary

Now and Then:1914 and 2014 Map of Europe

WW1 Detailed Timeline Highlighting Main Events


WW1 Centenary Events Features WW1 Centenary Events and Resources
(includes storytelling sessions, lectures, talks, readings, performances)

The WW1 At Home Live Events
(activities, performances and interactive sessions throughout the UK)


Emotional Words

WW1 Postcards from the Front

Fascinating Collection of Newspaper Front Pages


First World War Poetry

Sassoon’s Celebrated War Poem – How to Die in Animation – Narrated by David Harewood

Hedd Wyn: Poetry that Echoes from the First World War

WW1 Poet Robert Graves’ Son: How War Shaped My Father’s Life


World War 1 Books & Book Reviews

Authors Prepare to Mark Centenary of First World War with Flood of New Books

WW1 Centenary Book Reviews: 3 Latest WW1 Titles

WW1 Book Review: A Singular Day on the Somme

WW1 Book Review: Armageddon’s Walls


Are you planning on participating in any of the centenary events?

About Gina At The Word...

Gina – a wanderer who loves to explore the various aspects of life through reading - travelling - new and old ways of doing things and the benefits of both.

Perpetually curious about the art of storytelling, she hopes that readers and writers can come together through “The Word Runs Through It” to enhance their experience of “the book” and all its facets.

View all contributions by Gina At The Word...

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