This Article was written by Hannah Mestermann, Year 12 and Sami Maroof (Head Boy) Year 13
On the eleventh hour, of the eleventh day, of the eleventh month of 1918; the world fell silent as the fighting of the past four years came to an end.
November 11th is the day that we remember the 8.5 million fallen soldiers and all victims that fought and endured throughout the first World War. It is the day that, 102 years ago, Germany signed an armistice, accepting its defeat and ending the War.
"They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old: Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn. / At the going down of the sun and in the morning, We will remember them."
As we go about our everyday lives, we sometimes forget what has allowed us to enjoy the freedom of life. This is why Remembrance Day is so important as we can dive back to where we were all guaranteed liberation. Therefore, this quote is extremely useful in providing us with a sense of gratitude to the men who lost their lives to ensure we get to live a long one.
Why is there a Remembrance Day?
The reason for the First World War can be summarised into four distinct long term points; alliances, militarism, imperialism and nationalism. However, to every event there has to be a trigger, which in the case of the First World War was the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand. Most of you will have studied (or will be studying) this in History class.
Germany, Austria-Hungary, Bulgaria and the Ottoman Empire, commonly referred to as the Central Powers, fought against Britain, France, Romania, Italy, Japan and the United States (who joined in 1917), most notably known as the Allied Powers. This was to last between the years 1914-1918. The war was one of the bloodiest in history, which is evident after witnessing massacres in the Battle of the Somme which saw over one million men be killed; this included 420,000 British troops; 200,000 French troops; over 500,000 German troops. Overall, the war saw around 20 million military and civilians killed, while another 21 million wounded, thus living up to its name of The Great War.
Russia left the war in early 1918 due to the Russian revolution (another course which history takes a drastic turn), which put Germany in a strong position. However, after Germany’s 1918 Spring Offensive, which was a series of attacks along the Western Border by German troops; Britain and France counterattacked the opposition, resulting in their memorable victories and offensive against the Germans.
As the Allied Powers began dominating the Germans with victories and blockades, unrest began to grow amongst the Germans. Eventually, the German Navy went on strike (known as the Kiel Mutiny) on November 3rd 1918. Kaiser Wilhelm, the ruler of Germany stepped down six days later after realising that there was no chance they could win the war. Victory for the Allied Powers was secure (for the most part).
A hard armistice (agreement for peace) was inflicted on the German delegation which resulted in the victory in allied powers and the defeat of their last opponent. The Armistice, which was signed at Le Francport near Compiègne, disabled all fighting in air, sea and on land. Germany was to evacuate its captured territory within two weeks, including Alsace Lorraine. She had to surrender most of the navy as well as artillery, including machine guns and aircraft. All prisoners-of- war had to be returned and reparations for war damage was to be covered.
So why do we wear poppies?
Going back to 1914, just as the war had begun; the fields of Northern France and Flanders were ripped open and bled tirelessly as the fighting commenced.
After the war was over, the poppy was one of the only flowers to blossom on the past battlefields. This is one of the ways the fallen soldiers can be associated with happiness and peace as beautiful poppies grow on where they lay their final rest.
“We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields”
These words were written by Lieutenant Colonel - John McCrae, who served as a Canadian soldier in the war. The full poem can be found here, it is worth the read as it really places the serenity and solidarity shown by the soldiers as they went on to fight for the freedom of all of us, perhaps not knowing it at the time.
In the UK, Remembrance Day is celebrated by standing through a minute of silence where we use the time to think and appreciate the fallen soldiers who died for our freedom. This is then continued with people wearing a poppy to symbolise the fallen soldiers, which is usually bought and the money is sent to the Red Cross Foundation.
We hope you learnt something about why today is so important to not only history- but also our present.