Today, AUGUST the 4th, marks the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of the First World War.
There is no one alive who actually served in the First World War so why should we remember?
Keith Simpson, military historian on why we should mark the centenary, by remembering."The First World War is within our living memory. For those of us of a certain age we can remember talking and listening to our grandparents' generation, while the last survivors only died recently. We have vast quantities of physical evidence still to be seen in the scars of the battlefields, the cemeteries and memorials.
Apart from official documents and histories, we have the diaries and letters of tens of thousands of men and women, a literate generation. We can reach out to them through photographs and film so that although their hair styles, uniforms and clothes might look old fashioned they still look like us.
And that is without taking into account the sheer enormity of the casualties and the political instability after the war which contributed to what we were to call the Second World War."
By the 11th November 1918, in all the countries that took part, millions were affected.
The war touched almost everyone’s life in some way or other."Children grew up in the shadow of battle, their fathers absent or lost. Women became directly involved, picking up the pieces of industry and agriculture as the men went off to fight. By early 1918, they too could join the army and serve their country. Sometimes I don't think about it for months on end, then I dream about it and it all comes back. How really extraordinary it was. I can't quite get it out of my system."
Stephen Williamson looking back at the First World War in 1985
Millions of men were sent to fight in places that many had never heard of before.
It was a global struggle. Life changed forever. Nothing was ever the same again.
The power unleashed by rapidly invented modern war resulted in previously unimagined losses.
Over 9 million soldiers died directly as a result of fighting; more than 6 million civilians died from disease or starvation caused by gas attacks and food shortages. In all, the estimate of dead resulting from the war stands at over 16 million.
On top of the dead, more than 21 million were injured. Some recovered, others were never the same again, either in body or in mind.
Millions of people across the world still feel some connection with the "Great War". They knew the people whose lives were changed by it. They remain moved by the enduring words and works of art that were created as a response to it.
The Flanders Poppy was first described as the "Flower of Remembrance" by Colonel John McCrae who, before the First World War, was a well-known Professor of Medicine at McGill University in Montreal.
He had previously served as a gunner in the South African War, and at the outbreak of the First World War he became in A Medical Officer in France, with the first Canadian Army contingent.
At the second battle of Ypres in 1915 when in charge of a small first-aid post, during a lull in the action he wrote the following verses -
In Flanders' fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place: and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders' fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe;
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high,
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders' Fields.
Major John McCrae. 1915
"Gassed" by John Singer Sargent, 1919
Two verses from "For the fallen" by Robert Lawrence Binyan
They went with songs to the battle, they were young,
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted;
They fell with their faces to the foe.
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.
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