When Britain joined the conflict that went on to become known as the First World War, a century ago, it was impossible to imagine what the terrible human cost would be.
Ordinary life was put on hold for four years, with tens of thousands of men from South Yorkshire and North Derbyshire among those going off to fight - many never to return.
On Monday, August 4, it will be precisely 100 years to the day that Great Britain declared war on Germany, and communities across South Yorkshire and North Derbyshire will come together over the next few days to remember the region’s fallen soldiers who gave their lives in service to their country.
Thousands of people are expected to attend events across the region over the weekend and on Monday.
More than 50,000 men from Sheffield alone went off to fight, with the huge death toll from the war meaning only three parishes in the whole of Yorkshire saw all the men they sent to the front return safely.
To honour those who gave their lives in service of their country a century ago, special commemoration events are planned across the region. On Monday, communities will be taking part in the Royal British Legion’s national Lights Out initiative, in which people are being asked to turn off their lights and use candles instead for an hour between 10pm and 11pm.
A public Lights Out event has been organised at Mosborough Rugby Club, by history teacher Chris Young.
He said he decided to organise the event about three weeks ago after looking for somewhere in the region to attend one and finding none had been arranged.
Mr Young, who teaches at Hope Valley College and is a member of the rugby club, said he hopes there will be a good attendance on the night, with anyone welcome to attend.
He said: “As I took my rugby club to the battlefields around Ypres for our annual tour this year, I knew there would be an enthusiastic response to the idea of organising our own event.
“As we are a sports club we would like people to wear their favourite sports top at the event to remember the sportsmen who served their country.
“We also ask people to bring their own candle and make donations to the RBL when attending.
“During the ceremony we will focus on the sacrifice of Mosborough village as a part of the wider national remembrance happening at the same time.”
Sheffield Council will be marking the Lights Out campaign by shining lone lights from the Town Hall, and from council offices at Moorfoot and Howden House.
Councillor Isobel Bowler, cabinet member for culture, sport and leisure, said: “Whether they choose to light a single candle or not, I would urge people to take just an hour next Monday to reflect upon the war that was supposed to end all wars.
“For me, personally, it will also be a time to reflect upon other wars and conflicts around the world, the consequences of which are tragically relayed upon our television screens and in our newspapers each and every day.”
The British Legion is hoping more than a million candles will be lit across the UK to commemorate every serviceman and woman from the UK who died in the conflict. Special commemorative candles have gone on sale at Marks & Spencer to help raise cash for the charity.
Special church services are also planned around the region this weekend to mark the centenary, with one of the largest due to take place at Sheffield Cathedral on Sunday from 10.30am.
Hundreds of people are expected to attend, including service personnel and veterans of other conflicts.
Commemorative ceremonies will also take place in the Barnsley area, at Bolton cemetery and Penistone cemetery on Sunday at 11am.
At Bolton cemetery, the new war memorial will be officially dedicated and wreaths laid.
The memorial is dedicated to First and Second World War casualties from Bolton, Goldthorpe and Highgate – some 297 men and one woman.
Of the men, 180 were miners who joined up to fight.
Money for the memorial was raised by the Dearne Memorial Group with help from Barnsley Council through the area council ward alliance and the council’s bereavement services department.
The dedication and wreath laying ceremony will be performed by Deputy Mayor Councillor Ken Richardson and Barnsley Council leader Coun Sir Steve Houghton CBE.
At Penistone cemetery there will be a wreath-laying ceremony at the graves of soldiers.
Local man Joe Pinguey, who maintains war graves in Penistone, has organised the ceremony, which will be attended by Penistone Town Mayor Steve Marsh and town councillors, air cadets and members of the British Legion.
Regimental standard bearers will be attending both events.
On Monday, at 11am, the Jesus Chapel in Rotherham Minster will be opened as a First World War Memorial Chapel.
People visiting the chapel will be able to record their memories, stories and thoughts relating to the conflict, with some World War I uniforms on display, and there will be an opportunity for people to quietly reflect on the past 100 years.
It will remain as a First World War Memorial Chapel until Remembrance Sunday, November 9.
Kelham Island Museum in Sheffield will open two new exhibitions on Monday about the contribution of industry on the Sheffield Home Front.
‘War Work: Sheffield Industry and the First World War’ and ‘Taking Life and Saving Life: Made in Sheffield and The War to End All Wars, 1914-1918’, will showcase objects and documents which tell the story of the city’s industry, innovation and workers.
The two exhibitions will run until July 31, 2015.
A series of events is also planned at Chesterfield Museums in the coming weeks to mark the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War.
On Monday, there will be an exhibition in the museum’s video room called ‘Faces of the First World War’, telling the story of the Chesterfield men who fought in the conflict.
The borough council has been working in the run-up to the centenary with local schools, including Barrow Hill Primary School and Inkersall Primary School, to create poppy meadows, allowing children to learn about the conflict.
Chesterfield’s mayor, Coun Alexis Diouf, and mayoress, Vickey-Anne Diouf, will be representing the borough at church services to mark the centenary of the conflict on Sunday.
Further events will take place at Chesterfield Museum over the next fortnight, including poetry readings and in-depth looks at nursing and school life during the war.
Throughout the summer, the National Trust’s Longshaw Estate will have a display showcasing how it played a part on the Home Front during the war.
Longshaw Lodge was used as a convalescent hospital for wounded soldiers during the First World War and photographs from the time show them boating on the pond and enjoying tea parties as they recovered from their injuries.
The lodge was an auxiliary hospital to the 3rd General Hospital in Sheffield.
The Government’s Culture secretary Sajid Javid said the people of Sheffield and South Yorkshire had made a vital contribution to the war effort.
He said he hoped people would help mark the centenary by taking part in events such as the Lights Out campaign.
“The First World War, which Britain entered almost exactly 100 years ago, was unprecedented in its scale and scope,” he said.
“By the time the guns fell silent on November 11, 1918, almost a million British and Commonwealth soldiers, sailors and airmen had lost their lives. Twice as many again were injured.
“Local men were some of the first to sign up and over 50,000 men from Sheffield went off to fight.
“Of course, it wasn’t just the armed forces who contributed. From the factory floor to the hospital ward, the people of Sheffield joined countless other Britons in fighting on the home front, too.
“The 100th anniversary of the outbreak of war is significant, and this year’s commemorations are special for another reason.
“It marks the first time we have come together as a nation to remember the First World War since the passing of the last veterans who could tell us about it first-hand.
“With none of the ‘Tommies’ left to speak for themselves, it is more important than ever we ensure their stories are remembered and their sacrifice is not forgotten.”
n See Retro’s World War I special in The Star tomorrow.