World War 1
This Remembrance Sunday marks 100 years since the end of the Great War and perhaps the most poignant commemoration many of us will ever experience.
The Armistice agreement was signed in a railway carriage in the Forest of Compiegne and followed three days of meetings, where a German delegation considered the terms laid before them by the Allied nations. Although signed at around 5 o clock in the morning, the ceasefire would come into force until 11am Paris time – the eleventh hour of the eleventh day in the eleventh month. This symbolic timing was in direct contradiction of a British Government request for the ceasefire to take place later in the day, so it could be triumphantly announced in parliament, which serves to underline the utter futility of this conflict. With every minute’s delay and whilst communications were informing troops all across the Western Front, the guns kept firing and men continued to lose their lives, in a war which was already over.
At 11 am in London, Big Ben struck again for the first time in four years and sparked scenes of unbridled joy, as the war was finally over, in a day which was reported as ‘The greatest day in all of history’. These scenes were repeated in every corner of the country, but these celebrations were tempered by the pain of great loss. Even though none of Britain’s towns or cities had been devastated by artillery fire and none of her fields had been scarred by the trench networks of the Western Front, every inch of land was tarnished by the devastating loss of an entire generation - sons and daughters, fathers, brothers and husbands. This may have been the greatest victory the nation had ever known, but it would be replaced by the unbearable grief of peace.
On the Western Front, after the cacophony of war, the silence was deafening. How would men who had witnessed such terrible things and lost so many comrades to war be able to return to a normal life? After four years and three months of conflict, the world they knew had completely lost its innocence.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning, we will remember them.