Cathedral full as service  marks WWI
Poppies for remembrance: A solemn service at St George’s Cathedral yesterday commemorated today’s 100-year anniversary of the beginning of World War I. Picture: Ben Crabtree/The West Australian

It was a solemn evening at St George's Cathedral yesterday as hundreds of West Australians turned out to pay their respects at a special service held on the eve of the centenary of World War I.

Today marks 100 years since Australia entered the outbreak of WWI, a day that drew more than 32,000 West Australians to "almost immediately" enlist to serve their country.

On October 31, many of the brave WA men who had enlisted for battle left from Fremantle port, where hundreds of their fellow West Australians had gathered to bid them farewell.

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That outpouring of support was mirrored at the cathedral yesterday evening, with a crowd of about 350 filling pews and seats to pay their respects.

Lining the aisle of the cathedral were clusters of about 1000 hand-crafted poppies made as part of the Poppy Project, launched on Friday by the WA branch of the Returned and Services League and which hopes to produce 10,000 knitted, crocheted and sewed poppies for commemorative events, including in Albany, this year.

Australian actor Michael Loney opened the service with the moving poem Poppies, penned by an Australian sergeant enlisted in the 10th Battalion.

The crowd stood as the Villers-Bretonneux cross was carried to the altar, where it was put on display during the service.

Brought to WA in 1956, the cross was made in honour of those who fought and died in the war.

RSL State president Graham Edwards was among those who gave a reading, along with Patricia Gates, whose father was awarded the Military Medal for bravery in the field at the Battle of the Somme.

The Right Reverend Brian Kyme addressed the service with a solemn reflection on the thousands of Australian men who, during WWI, had left their loved ones behind to fight for their country and whose memory still stands in the battlefields of France today.

"In the playground at Villers-Bretonneux, there is a sign that says 'Never forget Australia'," the Rev. Kyme told the crowd. "And the little children of Villers-Bretonneux see it all the time."

The lights dimmed as the service drew to a close and after the Last Post echoed throughout the cathedral, the crowd stood for two minutes silence.

The half mulled sounds of the tenor bells - tolled 100 times to signal each year since the war began - signalled the end of the service, which ended in near darkness with the only source of light from the candles surrounding the Villers-Bretonneux cross.

Yesterday's service marks the first in a series of memorials at the cathedral over the coming months, with the next due to honour the ambulance men and women of WWI on August 24.

In eastern France at the weekend, descendants of two soldiers from France and Germany who were the first fatalities of WWI gathered for a ceremony marking the centenary of their deaths.

French Lance-Cpl Jules-Andre Peugeot and German Sub-Lt Albert Mayer were killed on the eve of the outbreak of the 1914-18 war.

The commemoration took place in the French border town of Joncherey, near Belfort, where the German officer led a reconnaissance mission into French territory on August 2, 1914.

As Europe prepared for war, Sub-Lt Mayer was the officer in charge of a small group of mounted soldiers who crossed the border into France and encountered Lance-Cpl Peugeot's unit.

The two exchanged fire, with Lance-Cpl Peugeot being killed instantly, while Sub-Lt Mayer died from French fire.

The West Australian

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