The 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War was marked across Epping Forest last night.

Lights were switched off in buildings across the district as part of the Royal British Legion’s (RBL) ‘Lights Out’ campaign.

The Epping and District branch of the RBL held a ceremony at the Hemnall Social Club just before 10pm.

Branch secretary John Duffell said: "To us in the RBL it is hugely important to remember the Great War.

"The sacrifice made by those who gave their lives should never be forgotten, and events like last night’s will help to perpetuate their memory.

"It was good to see several young people there – it gives us hope that there is a future for remembrance."

Epping Forest District Council (EFDC) chairman Tony Boyce lit the first commemorative candle followed by Epping Town mayor, Barbara Scruton.

Poems and letters home from soldiers were read out by members of the RBL, as well as the names of 113 men from Epping who served.

EFDC leader Chris Whitbread and other district councillors attended and sang wartime songs with the rest of the congregation.

Cllr boyce said: “The Great War stands out as a landmark in our history.

"It heralded a period of sacrifice and suffering beyond anything most people living today can imagine.

"Hardly a family or community was left unscathed. It was supposed to be the war to end all wars.

"Sadly we know that prophesy proved false. It is therefore all the more important that as the last of the Great War generations pass away, we honour and keep the memory of that sacrifice alive and try to learn from it today.”

Elsewhere the civic offices in High Street, Epping, were lit with a single lamp to mark the occasion.

Waltham Abbey church saw 120 people attend a candlelit vigil at 9.30pm to hear bible readings, poetry, music, hymns and prayers.

As the service progressed the lights in the church were gradually put out.

The congregation’s candles were then extinguished, leaving a single candle alight which was was put out at the very end of the service as everyone left in silence.

Everyone present was given a replica copy of an Active Service St John’s Gospel, which has been reissued to mark the centenary.

This pocket-sized gospel was distributed to the troops as they went to the Front by the Scripture Gift Mission.

Wreaths were laid at the war memorial at St Andrew's Church in Vicarage Lane West, North Weald, yesterday morning by the North Weald branch of the RBL, North Weald Parish Council, the Royal Air Force Association and the Women’s Institute.

Five crosses were planted at graves in the churchyard. 

Commemorative services were also held at churches in Loughton, Moreton and Fyfield last night.