ON the first day back at work (Aug 4) after the August bank holiday, one hundred years ago, there can't have been many people outside the Government or military who were aware of the ultimatum Britain had given Germany to withdraw their troops from Belgium. If they didn't leave by midnight (central European time - 11pm BST) a state of war would exist between the two countries.
The following morning Wednesday August 5, 1914, the news would have spread rapidly via newspapers and word of mouth. It's hard to imagine what the overall feeling would have been for the majority of people here in the Black Country; mixed emotions probably.
In hindsight we know exactly what the days, months and years following the declaration of war had in store for our ancestors, and on the eve of the 100th anniversary of the start of the Great War the good people of Sandwell came together at the War Memorial in the centre of Oldbury to share in an hour long candlelit vigil called Lights Out that was taking place throughout the country, to remember the many thousands who had died in this terrible conflict.
It was the words spoken by Sir Edward Grey the Foreign Secretary as he looked through the window of his office in Whitehall on the evening of August 4, 1914, spying a man lighting a gas lamp, that inspired the candlelit vigil. He said: "The lamps are going out all over Europe, we shall not see them lit again in our lifetime."
The people of Sandwell lit their candles at 10pm and they remained burning brightly until 11pm when the signal was given to douse the flames. The war had begun and the world would never be the same again.