Day a nation showed the memory burns on

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Did you sit in near darkness for an hour on Monday night to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the start of the most hideous of conflicts?

Thankfully you weren’t on your own as a nation paid its respects. Our participation in this very noble tribute nearly ended before it started as our mad hunt for a candle drew a blank.

As every man knows, women, for some unknown reason, pick up candles of all varieties - scented, ornate, the fly-scaring ones - on a regular basis. So when I heard about the push for homes across the land to be lit only by candlelight for one hour I was sure we would be able to take part.

Despite our best efforts we had to make do with much-maligned eco-bulb which actually turned out to be aptly dull enough. The gas ring went on for 10 minutes but that was deemed to be uneconomical, not to mention somewhat risky.

I had steadfastly refused to download an app on to my mobile phone on the grounds that to do so would have made me bone idle.

As wondrous as technology can be, some occasions call for the simple option and remembering the sacrifice made by millions during the First World War was one of those occasions.

A minor saving on one’s electricity bill was a mere gesture, like the minute’s silence many of us observe once a year in November, but we are keeping the memories of the fallen alive all the same.

It has been said that there was not a family who wasn’t affected in some way by the Great War (a widely-used term which I have never really felt comfortable using) and that still rings true today.

How many have been given cause over the past few days to remember a great uncle or great grandfather who either fell in an anonymous farmer’s field in northern Europe or lived to tell the tale but were never quite the same again? At the weekend a family outing to a seaside haunt of my youth ended up being a more sombre occasion when we discovered that my late grandmother’s 17-year-old brother’s name had been included on a temporary memorial in honour of the scores of local boys and men who perished during four terrible years of conflict a century ago.

It was a welcome and moving tribute and just one example of how communities up and down the land have pulled out the stops to ensure the legacy of the fallen lives on.

It is at times like these that many of us are filled with hope that maybe, just maybe we can change attitudes to war and conflict. Only the most naive would agree that this is a vain hope, particularly as tens of millions of lives have been lost as a result of warfare since November 11 1918.

But it is important that we hold on to the special feeling which has overcome many this week because the ultimate sacrifice made by long since departed relatives and strangers still actually means something.