A soldier’s diary from the front line, 11 candles snuffed out one by one and the Mayor’s unveiling of a WW1 centenary plaque at New Malden War Memorial.

They are all part of Kingston’s commemorations to mark the centenary of the start of the First World War, writes Fiona Parker.

Meanwhile, a charity founded to care for injured servicemen and women looks back on the tale of one of its first residents.

On August 4th, the Mayor of Kingston Councillor Ken Smith will commemorate the outbreak of war with the annual civic ceremony.

Eleven candles will be carried to the church, with one extinguished every hour until 11pm as part of the Royal British Legion’s Lights Out campaign.

The service, led by Reverend Jonathan Wilkes, will feature a reading from the diary kept by Rifleman James Gordon Watson of the 12th County of London Regiment Territorials.

But first, this Sunday the Mayor will unveil a WWI centenary plaque at the New Malden War Memorial.

Two exhibitions are also being held at the Kingston Museum and Rose Theatre to commemorate the event.

The Mayor said: "The centenary of the First World War should be a reminder to us all about the reality of war. Never before had our county seen such carnage.

"This event is an opportunity to pay our respects to the fallen and to all those who grieved at that time."

Meanwhile the Royal Star & Garter Homes, established in 1916 to care for servicemen injured on the battlefields, will have a personal project at their new home in Surbiton.

The first Home on Richmond Hill welcomed 65 residents to provide a "permanent haven for paralysed and severely disabled men of the King’s Forces".

The average age of the residents was just 22.

Horace Ham, enlisted in 1915, aged 20. After recovering from injuries endured at the Somme, he returned to France in 1917, but was shot in the arm and permanently disabled.

Standing in waist-high water in the trenches also caused osteoarthritis in his spine.

When his wife died, Horace arrived at The Royal Star & Garter.

He said: "The Star & Garter is my home now. It’s a wonderful, wonderful place.

"I only hope, just as the Home was here for me when I needed it, it will be here in years to come for brave service men and women."

  • July 27: The Unveiling of the WWI centenary plaque; The New Malden War Memorial on the High Street, 11am 
  • August 4: The Mayor’s Civic Ceremony and Candle Service at Kingston’s Ancient Market Place from 12 noon until 1pm and will be followed by a procession to All Saints Church;
  • September 1 – October 25: "Galsworthy: Human Battles on the Home Front"; Rose Theatre Kingston; 12pm - 4pm
  • Until May 16: "1914: Remembering Kingston at War"; Kingston Museum; 10am – 5pm