Armistice Day - November 11th
 By Valkyrie   •   11th Nov 2010   •   8,019 views   •   3 comments
Have you forgotten yet?

Look down and swear by the slain of the War that you'll never forget.
- “Aftermath”, Siegfried Sassoon, pub. 1920.

It has been ninety-two years since World War One ended. It was the “war to end all wars”, and yet in those ninety-two years since its cease the world has seen no fewer than seven notable wars. Among them World War Two, Vietnam and the current Iraq/Afghanistan conflicts. It is clear that the twelve million souls who laid their lives down upon the altar of sacrifice did so in vain.
Armistice Day

The history of mankind is tainted with bloodshed. From the battlefields of Waterloo to the trenches of the Western Front and street-fighting of Stalingrad, it seems we humans cannot resist the temptation to bleed men. I have been studying 20th century military history for six years now ever since I picked up a children's novel about Gallipoli at age 12. In that book there was one line that struck a chord. It listed several strange names and asked the question:

When we are all dead who will remember? I decided to do a little research which snowballed into a passion.

I will do my best to give you a brief history of this conflict without boring you, because it is crucial we understand the mistakes our forebears made, in order to prevent such happenings in the future.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old.
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
And at the going down of the sun, and in the morning,
We will remember them.
- “For the Fallen”, Laurence Binyon, 1914 (killed just a week before the war ended).

How much do you know, or care, about your country's involvement in World War One? I suppose you will say: “Well...we fought in it.” Yeah, but where? How heavy were your losses? How many bright young men, filled with hopes and dreams, died for you to ignore the fact that they did so? How many graves bearing the names of your countrymen litter the fields of France and Belgium so that you can sit in school and doodle idly on your history book?

Hundreds. Thousands. In some cases millions.

World War One began because of a disgruntled Serbian nationalist named Gavrilo Princip. He was part of a terrorist group known as the “Black Hand”. In 1914 he stepped up onto the running board of the Austrian heir to the throne's car and shot him and his wife. Those two shots became known as the “shots that echoed around the world.” Those two shots killed over twelve million people. Princip would later die of tuberculosis in the same prison Adolf Hitler would be incarcerated in when he wrote his autobiography “Mein Kampf.” But not before he had witnessed the destruction his decision caused.

Armistice Day

For four long years soldiers from as far away as New Zealand, Australia and India would fight and die in France and Belgium. Places which had previously been sleepy country hamlets would become synonymous with death, terror and despair. Places such as Passchendaele, Ypres and Verdun. The land would be forever scarred by heavy shelling and the digging of many trenches. Even today farmers tilling their fields find rusting bayonets and discarded rifles.

If I should die, think only this of me
That there's some corner of a foreign field
That is forever England.
- “The Soldier”, Rupert Brooke, 1914.

People die in wars. This is expected. Casualties are inevitable when any two factions clash with modern weaponry. But World War One was the first war to see so many people die so quickly. The machine gun was invented toward the tail-end of the 19th century, but by 1914 it was widely used and devastating. An American farmer invented barbed wire to keep his cattle from roaming, never dreaming it would be used in just a few short years to ensnare attacking troops. Airplanes were quickly pressed into military service, used first as observers and for bomb-runs, and later for the world's first aerial battles. Aces such as Manfred von Richthofen (the Red Baron) became national heroes.

Tanks were also invented during World War One, although they were useless. They kept getting stuck in mud, and were slow enough to be put out of action relatively quickly. Poisonous gases such as chlorine, phosgene and KSK were also used and later banned by the Geneva Convention. The Germans were able to practise methods they would later use in World War Two, such as stormtroopers, flammenwerfer (flamethrowers) and pill-box formations.

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row.
- “In Flanders Fields”, John McCrae, 1915.

Armistice Day

World War One was the first true world conflict. As I mentioned before, soldiers even from my home country of New Zealand fought in it. We lost 2721 in the botched Gallipoli Campaign of 1915. Australia lost just over 8700 there. The names that that book I read as a kid mentioned were landmarks and battles above and around Anzac Cove, on the Gallipoli Peninsula of modern-day Turkey (then known as the Ottoman Empire). Names such as Chunuk Bair, Lone Pine, The Nek, Baby 700, Battleship Hill and many more.

I now know Chunuk Bair to be the battle that defined the New Zealanders, despite it being a loss. That Lone Pine was the only victory of the August Offensive. That the Nek was where the charge of the Light Horse Brigade was mown down in swathes.

Countless men and women died for your freedom. The least you can do them is pay the courtesy of remembering their sacrifice this Armistice Day November 11th. I will.

Main image: British units attacking on the Somme in 1916. 20,000 would be killed in action on the first day of the battle.
Image One: Stretcher-bearers struggling to bring a wounded man in off the Passchendaele battlefield. In conditions such as this it took up to four hours to retrieve one man.
Image Two: Australian gunners moving along duckboards laid through the shelled ruins of a forest near Passchendaele.
Image Three: "Hopping the bags" - British soldiers climbing over the parapet of their frontline trench under German fire on the Somme.
Image Four: A war cemetery devoted to New Zealand and Australian dead and missing near Anzac Cove, Gallipoli Peninsula, Turkey.
Video: Compiled by me. Song: "The Anzac" by Adam Brand.

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Mystic Magic  
Great job on your research. We done the minute of silence thing at school for this. We also had an assembly. :)
  Nov 12, 2010  •  5,988 views
PonyBox  MOD 
Good stuff, thanks for posting and taking the time to research all the facts.
  Nov 12, 2010  •  5,744 views
Rachs Barnorama  
Fantastic article :) As with each year, we had a minute silence at 11:00 on Remembrance Day for the ANZAC soldiers that have fought for our country.
  Nov 13, 2010  •  5,781 views
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