The “war to end all wars” ended. On the 11th minute of the 11th day of the 11th month. 100 years ago. It’s hard to envision the carnage today. In places like the Somme, 50,000 were killed in 1 day.
Our own Hogday was telling me that with the start of the war, with the PALS program, villages were completely emptied of young men who joined together to be in the same units.
In 1914, it was thought that the war would be over quickly. By 1918, some of those villages lost their entire population of those young men.
I would say that the first world war was the cataclysmic event of the 20th century. With the collapse of the Hapsburg empire, the map of Europe was redrawn. With the suffering of the Russians under the Tsar, it gave birth to Communism.
Many historians say that it gave birth to the second world war, at least in Europe. Some years ago, I read an excellent book by William Manchester on Winston Churchill. He gave an excellent review of European politics in the 1930s. Every time the Weimar Republic was getting the country on its feet, they had to pay reparations.
And yet, I can also understand the bitterness of the French and the British, who lost so much. From that I can also understand their hesitancy in confronting Hitler.
This aerial video of Ypres, shot by a French aviator Jacques Trolley de Prévauxin in 1919, shows the French landscape as a lunar like surface. Jacques would later be in the French resistance, and killed by the Gestapo.
While the German landscape was unscathed, Germany was hollowed out by the effectiveness of the British blockade. I heard on a program earlier this year that 500,000 German civilians died of starvation. The Germans claimed over 700,000.
As for me, my great uncle, LT Peter Zouck, was killed by a sniper a month ago today, 100 years ago. In the family lore, he was very popular with his men. In letters he wrote he always talked about the rats and filth of trench warfare, and if he could only have a bath. That evening my grandmother claimed that in a dream an angel told her that he was alright.
He was killed in the Meuse-Argonne.
When we were cleaning out my Uncle Peter’s room we saw a banner given to Gold Star mothers. After the war, the government paid for passage to mothers who lost their sons, so they could see their graves in Europe.
My cousin decided to give it to her son, an Afghanistan veteran, who witnessed his best friend blown up by an IED.
One hundred years ago today.