Nov. 11 will be the 100th anniversary of the ending of the First World War. Here’s how it unfolded.
Battle of the Marne
The First World War could have been just another European war: German armies sweep into Paris, the French surrender, a peace treaty is worked out and the war is indeed over by Christmas. Had this happened, the world would have been spared the four years of bloodshed that ensued, and for Canada, not a single soldier would have been needed in Europe. Instead, the Germans were repulsed at the Battle of the Marne, unwittingly signing the death warrant for millions.
The opening weeks of the First World War had been fought in the open: Great armies smashing into each other in farmers’ fields just as they had done for centuries. But on Sept. 15, 1914 stalemated British and German armies began digging for cover at positions in Northern France. The trenches would endure for four years, stretch from the North Sea to Alsace on the Swiss border and cover some 56,000 kilometres.
Airplanes had only been intended as reconnaissance devices. Incredibly, in the first days of the First World War enemy pilots (who often knew each other from pre-war European flying meet-ups) would even wave as they passed. On Oct. 5, 1914 this era definitively ended when a French pilot shot down a German plane. And this wasn’t a case of blazing away at a faceless enemy: The Frenchman pulled out his rifle and shot the German pilot directly.
The last gasp of civility on the Western Front. Sparked by the spirit of Christmas Day, German and British troops met in No Man’s Land, sang carols, shared alcohol and food, and even played a soccer game. When senior officers later heard what happened they were horrified. And by 1915 the hatreds would be too deep, and the losses too great, for any shared humanity with the Germans.
Spanish flu case
Under normal circumstances, the particularly virulent flu that swept through a Kansas hospital in early 1917 would have been an epidemiological footnote. But occurring as it did during the largest movement of humanity ever known, the Spanish Flu would spread like prairie fire and kill more people than the war that spawned it. Targeting the young in particular, there’s no telling how many future leaders or innovators it claimed.
With a few small bombs exploding in seaside British towns on Jan 19, 1915, the era of strategic bombing had begun. German zeppelins weren’t bombing troops or military targets: This was terror bombing designed to scare Britain out of the war. It didn’t work, but the idea of “breaking the morale of a population” through bombing would go on to kill millions before the century was out.
J.L. Granatstein: This November 11th, remember Canada’s heroic 100 daysLast road to Mons: The frantic final hours to free the very city where the whole fight began’A war that nearly broke us’: How the First World War upended Canada’s political, social and …read more
Source:: Nationalpost – News