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RNA welcomes Lamplight of Peace to Portsmouth

The Royal Naval Association had the honour of leading a special tribute to a group of unsung heroes, and to all those who lost their lives in World War 1.

Members of the Association welcomed the Lamplight of Peace to Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, the first port of call in a 100-day tour that will end on Remembrance Sunday, November 11.

The RNA is hosting the device for the first 25 days of the tour, in partnership with the National Museum of the Royal Navy, which has put it on public display as part of the Jutland 100 exhibition.

It will move on at the end of the summer, passing through the hands of Army and RAF charities and the Merchant Navy Association before returning to London.

The specially-commissioned Lamplight of Peace is an original Bonnetted Clanny (Meusler) lamp dating from 1907 that would have been used by miners in British coalfields and subsequently in the tunnels dug beneath enemy trenches on the Western Front during the war.

The British Army employed some 25,000 miners, mostly volunteer coal miners, who toiled in total silence up to 100ft underground, setting up huge landmines below enemy strongholds and countering German tunnellers.

Working alongside infantrymen, the miners were in constant fear of carbon monoxide poisoning, tunnel collapse, explosions and the prospect of fighting German tunnellers hand-to-hand in the dark.

2ft square at its base and standing 18 inches high, the lamplight features strands from German and British barbed wire of the period, coal from the last British major coal mine, shards of trench post and soil from a World War 1 trench near Ypres, ballast from the railway line where the Armistice was signed in France and a replica of a Victoria Cross.

Although it is particularly relevant to the miners, the lamplight also serves to remember all who lost their lives in the conflict.

It was lit at a ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior in Westminster Abbey on 4 August, then travelled to Portsmouth in the care of WO Paul Jackson and the Chaplain of the Fleet, the Rev Martyn Gough.

It was then placed aboard the Queen’s Harbourmaster’s launch, Solent Spirit, in which it was transported from the Naval Base to the pontoon beside Boathouse 4.

Parade commander S/M Andy Christie, the RNA Deputy General Secretary, and National Chairman S/M Keith Ridley met the lamplight party, which included two serving RN ratings, and escorted them to a spot close to the Jutland 100 exhibition, where S/M Keith welcomed everybody and the Rev Gough led a short service of dedication.

Some 30 shipmates, and 15 standards, were on parade, and the event also drew an audience of tourists.

The lamplight is on display beside the 4in gun of destroyer HMS Lance – the weapon that fired the first British shot of the war at sea, exactly 104 years ago.

S/M Andy said: “Today was very special.  I think it's lovely that the Royal Naval Association gets a chance to do a commemoration like this - we do it spectacularly well when we do get the opportunity.

“I had seen pictures of the lamplight before but to see it in the flesh was very good. It really does make the Remembrance much more real to see something like that with your own eyes, and it's nice to see something physical that you can remember people by.”

Prof Dominic Tweddle, Director General of the National Museum of the Royal Navy, said: “As a museum we have worked incredibly hard to mark the centenary of the Great War.

“It was important to demonstrate that, far from being a war fought in France and in the trenches, World War 1 was fought at sea and this had a huge influence on its outcome.

“We are honoured to be the first call for the Lamplight of Peace and urge all our visitors to reflect on the incredible bravery of those who fought in the war.”

The event is part of ‘Battle's Over – A Nation's Tribute’, organised by international Pageantmaster Bruno Peek to mark the centenary of the end of the Great War.

Visitors to Portsmouth can see the lamplight until the end of August, and when it returns to Westminster Abbey in November it will form part of the national Remembrance programme.

On November 11 its flame will be used to light a beacon in the abbey – the first of more than 1,000 such lights throughout the UK, the Channel Islands, the Isle of Man and UK Overseas Territories, signifying the relighting of the lamps in 1918 that, in the words of Foreign Secretary Sir Edward Grey in August 1914, were ”going out all over Europe”.