One hundred years ago on Monday of this week, Wilfred Owen, perhaps the most celebrated of the Great War poets, was promoted to the rank of lieutenant in the Manchester Regiment.
It was a posthumous award. Owen, author of some of the most hauntingly powerful anti war poems ever written, including Dulce et Decorum est and Anthem for Doomed Youth, had been killed in action the day before – one week almost to the hour before the guns fell silent on the Western Front.
His mother received the telegram informing her of his death on Armistice Day 1918 as the church bells of Shrewsbury rang out in celebration, as they did across the country.
The bells will ring out all over the British Isles again next Sunday, as this year marks the Armistice Centenary, which coincides with Remembrance Day, and Manchester will be at the heart of a programme of events marking 100 years since the end of the First World War.
At 6am on 11th November, a lone piper at Manchester Cathedral will play Battle’s O’er – one of a thousand pipers across the UK and around the world beginning the day’s commemorations in the same way.
Civic dignitaries, servicemen and women, service and ex-service organisations, faith leaders and uniformed organisations, will take part in Manchester’s Remembrance Day parade, due to set off from the Radisson Hotel on Peter Street at 10.25am.
The parade will march the short distance to the Cenotaph in St Peter’s Square, opposite the Cooper Street entrance of the town hall. Clergy from the Free Church, Church of England and Roman Catholic Church will join elected members, consuls and magistrates at the Cenotaph together with faith leaders representing Muslim, Afro-Caribbean Christian Churches, Sikh, Hindu, Jain and Jewish communities.
At 11am there will be a two minute silence, the start and end of which will be marked by the firing of a 105mm gun.
After the service, a March Past of Service Organisations will take place – outside Central Library on St Peter’s Square – observed by the Queen’s representative in Greater Manchester, Lord Lieutenant Warren Smith, Lord Mayor of Manchester Councillor June Hitchen, senior representatives from the Army, Royal Air Force, Royal Navy, Reserve Forces, the Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment of which the old Manchesters became a part, and 207 Field Hospital.
In a symbolic way to give thanks for the end of war 100 years ago, the government has invited the nation’s bells to ring at 12.30pm. The act will replicate the national outpouring of relief that took place at the end of World War I as news of the Armistice filtered through and bells which had largely been silent during the conflict rang out.
In Manchester, bells at Manchester Cathedral, The Hidden Gem and other locations will be rung “with gusto”.
A single bugler will sound the Last Post at Manchester Cathedral at 6.55pm, again one of 1,000 individual buglers sounding the historic tribute to the fallen across the nation and UK Overseas Territories.
And at 7pm a beacon will be lit outside Manchester Cathedral. More than 1,000 Beacons of Light will be lit at locations across Britain and UK Overseas Territories, symbolising an end to the darkness of war and a return to the light of peace.
“On Remembrance Sunday, Manchester will remember and honour all those who have lost their lives in active service,” said Councillor June Hitchen.
“While remembering the fallen in all conflicts, a number of solemn events will also mark the centenary of the Armistice – 100 years since the end of the First World War.
“It is important that people come out and show their support on occasions like this which gives us time to reflect on past and present conflicts and allows us to pay tribute to the enormous sacrifices made by all members of the armed forces, while performing their duty.”
Commemorative events will be taking place in towns and villages across Greater Manchester at the weekend.
At Stockport’s St George’s Church Heaviley, whose adjoining school served as a military hospital in the Great War, a web of poppies cascades from ceiling to floor at the altar end of the nave. Each poppy represents a name on every war memorial in the town.
At a special service at 1.30pm on Saturday, all the names will be read out. It’s expected to take three hours. There are almost 3,000.