" Beginning in 2014 and ending in 2018, the world will mark the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of the First World War. The power unleashed by modern warfare resulted in previously unimagined losses. Over 9 million soldiers died as a result of the fighting.Food shortages, sometimes deliberately inflicted by blockade and sometimes resulting from failed harvests, weakened the people who remained on the home fronts. Nearly 6 million civilians died from disease or starvation. Almost 1 million more were killed as a direct result of military operations. In all, the estimate of dead resulting from the war stands at over 16 million.
And then there were the wounded. More than 21 million. Some recovered. Others were never the same again, either in body or in mind.
It was not just people who died. The old world order was also irreparably damaged. Both the Austro-Hungarian and Turkish empires were destroyed. From their ashes a host of new countries emerged, in Europe and the Middle East. Russia was wracked by revolution and became the world’s first Communist state. Monarchies fell. A new world order emerged, with the United States developing a League of Nations that they then opted not to join. The consequences of many of these political changes can be heard today reverberating around the world, nearly a century later.
Millions of people across the world still feel a connection with the Great War for Civilisation. They knew the people whose lives were changed by it. They remain moved by the enduring works of art that were created as a response to it. They live with its unresolved political legacies. The First World War created a common sense of history that, decades later, still links people from many disparate nations. “
Above is an edited extract from The UK Imperial War Museum’s website here.
Click here for article on how other countries are marking the centenary
Many consider this poignant song, “The Green Fields Of France ” to be one of the finest anti war songs ever written. There are many versions with slightly different lyrics. The original text was written by Eric Bogle, but this one above is by the Fury’s. It’s my favourite, probably because their version was the first one I heard many years ago, and it has stuck in my head ever since.
Well how do you do, Young Willie McBride
Do you mind if I sit here down by your grave side?
And rest for awhile beneath the warm summer sun.
I’ve been walking all day and I’m nearly done.
I see by your gravestone you were only 19
when you joined the great fallen in 1916.
I hope you died well, and I hope you died clean
Or, young William McBride, was it slow and obscene?
Did they beat the drum slowly
Did they play the fife lowly?
Did they sound the death march as they lowered you down?
And did the band play ‘The Last Post’ and chorus?
Did the pipes play ‘The Flowers of the Forest’?
Did you leave a wife or a sweetheart behind?
In some faithful heart is your memory enshrined ?
Although you died back in 1916
In that faithful heart are you forever 19 ?
Or are you a stranger without even a name
Enclosed and forever behind a glass-frame
In an old photograph torn battered and stained
And faded to yellow in a brown leather frame?
The sun now it shines on the green fields of France,
There’s a warm summer breeze that makes the red poppies dance.
And look how the sun shines from under the clouds
There’s no gas, no barbed wire, there’s no gun firing now.
But here in this graveyard it’s still No Man’s Land
The countless white crosses stand mute in the sand.
To man’s blind indifference to his fellow man
To a whole generation that were butchered and downed.
Ah, young Willie McBride I can’t help wondering why,
Do those that lie here know why did they die?
And did they believe when they answered the call
Did they really believe that this war would end wars?
Well, the sorrow, the suffering, the glory, the shame
- The killing, the dying were all done in vain.
For young Willie McBride, it all happened again
And again, and again, and again, and again.
Repeat Chorus x2
More information from this site The Heritage Of The Great War.