MEMORIAL services marking the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of the First World War will be held in and around Henley this weekend.
The conflict started on August 4, 1914 and had claimed the lives of almost one million British soldiers by the time it ended on November 11, 1918.
On Sunday an open-air “drum-head” service will be held in Henley market place where a plaque commemorating the town’s “forgotten” soldiers will be unveiled by the Lord Lieutenant of Oxfordshire Tim Stevenson.
The service, so called because soldiers in the trenches would create a makeshift altar by draping the Union flag over drums, will start at 3pm.
It will be led by Rev Duncan Carter, vicar of Holy Trinity Church, and will feature standard bearers from 10 Royal British Legion branches.
The service will end with the Last Post and a two-minute silence before carrier pigeons are released into the air and three Tiger Moth biplanes perform a fly-past.
All are welcome at the service and for refreshments at the town hall afterwards. The Lord Lieutenant will also be presented with a copy of Bringing Them Home, a 320-page book about the men from Henley who died in the war by amateur historian Mike Willoughby, from Woodcote. It was edited by his wife Lesley and published by Higgs Group, publisher of the Henley Standard.
The plaque features the names of 298 soldiers from the Henley area who fought in the war, including about 90 whose names are not included on the town’s existing memorials. Another two plaques will be installed at Holy Trinity Church and St Mary’s Church in November.
They were commissioned as part of the Lest We Forget Project, which is funded by the Henley Standard, the National Lottery and donations from the public.
Another drum-head service will be held at Nettlebed village hall at 4pm on Sunday. This will feature readings of poems written in the trenches.
There will be display of war memorabilia in the hall over the weekend. Another service will take place at the war memorial in Cookley Green from 10am on Sunday.
This will be attended by Henley MP John Howell, who will read the lesson, and representatives from the Royal British Legion, Thames Valley Police and Swyncombe parish. A guard of honour will be provided by servicemen from RAF Benson.
The service will be followed at 7pm by a candlelit vigil at St Botolph’s Church in Swyncombe, where all lights will be extinguished for a few minutes at 11pm.
A candlelit vigil will be held at St Nicholas’ Church in Rotherfield Greys at 8.30pm. All lights will be put out apart from one candle, which will be placed by the cross at the back of the church.
On Monday, there will be a “lights-out” event at Henley town hall from 11pm, with just a single candle in the stained glass window at the front of the building.
• A display about the effect of the outbreak of the war on Henley and its people is on at the town library. The display features books and much of the information has been taken from the Henley Standard archives that are stored on microfilm.