2018 has marked the centenary of the end of the First World War, (1914-1918) the cataclysmic battle which after four years had left 18 million dead and 23 million wounded.
The significant centenary has triggered commemorations and services of remembrance across the world and closer to home, throughout the UK and Ireland. Of course, Armistice Day itself is commemorated annually on November 11th but this year being special, numerous events have already taken place, with many more still to come.
Monday 26th March saw a poignant ceremony held at the equestrian statue of General Ferdinand Foch at Lower Grosvenor Gardens in Victoria, London. The event, part of the planned national events in the UK Government’s First World War Centenary programme, marked his appointment as Supreme Allied Commander on the Western Front which triggered the coalition warfare that was a significant factor in the Allied military successes of the summer of 1918. Guests and nearby members of the public enjoyed respectful readings, music and wreath laying by way of tribute.
On August 8th a service was held at Amiens Cathedral in France to mark the centenary of the Battle of Amiens and the subsequent “Hundred Days Offensive,” a major turning point of the war in favour of the Allies. His Royal Highness The Duke of Cambridge and UK Prime Minister Theresa May joined 3,000 guests to mark the centenary of the battle itself. Numerous invited families of soldiers from across the globe made the trip to Amiens.
Throughout the year we’ve also seen various exhibitions that reflect on the global impact of the First World War, notably in the Imperial War Museum’s powerful ‘Making A New World’ season. It includes ‘Generation Hope: Life After The First World War,’ looking at the ensuing effects of the war at the Imperial War Museum in London. Also notable will be the now-iconic ‘Blood Swept Lands And Seas Of Red’ display of 888,246 ceramic poppies will be installed at the Imperial War Museum sites in both Manchester and London, while artwork originally commissioned for the unbuilt post-war Hall of Remembrance will also be shown for the very first time. All of these works and events have the aim of helping people understand what happened, to show gratitude for peace and to remember all of the soldiers who went to war and never returned.
On 11th November there will be a series of events to mark the centenary of the Armistice, including The National Service of Remembrance at London’s Cenotaph. This service remembers the fallen of all global conflicts, but the traditional ensuing march-past will be expanded hugely as members of the public have been chosen by ballot and will number 10,000 strong in an act to be known as ‘A Nation’s Thank You – the People’s Procession.’ Throughout the whole day, church bells will ring out in the same manner as when The Great War ended and the day’s services culminate with a service at Westminster Abbey, alongside similar one in Cardiff, Belfast and Glasgow to give thanks for peace and for those who returned.
In the current global climate, it feels more important than ever before that we truly do remember the horrific events and learn the lessons from them. Sadly we live in a climate of unrest, the scourge of terrorism being an ever-present blight across the world. The US is floundering under the most divisive Presidency of modern times which sometimes makes war seem only one catastrophic misjudgment away…Meanwhile Britain remains troubled and divided by the planned exit from the European Union, threatening civil unrest and overall social & political division.
Terrorism, tyrants, division, political squabbles…Sound familiar? All of the above played a major role in the triggering of World War One and therefore seem more troubling than ever today. The assassination of Austria-Hungary Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo on 28th June 1914, long regarded as the final trigger point that ignited the Great War, was the ultimate act of terrorism, after all. We could all do a lot worse than bear these awful events in mind as the Centenary of the end of World War 1 arrives. This particular dark chapter of history must never be allowed to repeat itself – Remembrance events very much help to keep this message heard.
Many choose to pay their own silent tribute to the fallen through organised minute’s silences or simply through their own thoughts and contemplations. However attending some of the organised memorial events, like the ones mentioned above, is a great way to share in the collective remembrance. The more people attend, the more valid the memorial and it’s so important that we, as a society, make the effort. There’s no better way than throngs of people paying their respects, whether through commemorative Remembrance flags and bunting, silent tribute or grateful applause. The sight of children proudly holding a WW1 Centenary Flag is one we should strive for and cherish, as it’s so important that the horrors of war are not forgotten, and are absolutely marked by all generations. Business and organisations often mark the annual armistice with small tokens like Remembrance Table flags which make a wonderful and poignant additions to schoolchildrens’ desks.
These are exactly the kind of tributes that matter and are so vital in helping to ensure we never forget the sacrifice made by so many, and equally that we heed the lessons for future generations. Wherever you local memorial service is, why not make the effort and go along?…After all, we all need some perspective now & again.