November 11, 2018, we will celebrate the centenary of the armistice of the First World War, signed in Rethondes in 1918. The First World War broke out in 1914 mostly between France and Germany and it also involved allies of the two country: United States, British Empire (Australia, Canada, New Zealand), Russia and Italy on the side of France and the Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian empires for Germany. World War I ravaged the world for four years. Return on this Great War and on the commemoration of its centenary.
What happened during the First World War?
How did World War I begin?
The trigger of the First World War was undoubtedly the assassination of the Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand, then heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, by a Serbian nationalist in June 1914 in Sarajevo. There was therefore a first conflict between Austria-Hungary and Serbia and the game of political and military alliances turned the conflict into a total war, the First World War, thus mixing other European peoples, including France and Germany and their respective colonies.
However, the origin of the conflict can be found in earlier reasons. Tensions already existed in 1914: France sought revenge after losing Alsace-Moselle to Germany, several countries had ambitions expansionist and imperialist, all on the background of nationalism and several diplomatic misunderstandings. The First World War took place mainly in the northern part of France, in the current regions of the Grand Est and Hauts-de-France and counted 65 million soldiers including 8 million French. It was bloody: 9 million victims were identified, half were civilians and the other half were soldiers.
Anecdote: if you did not know it, the French soldiers were called “Poilus” because they let their long beard grow during the First World War.
How was the First World War supported by women?
World War I mobilized more than 8 million French soldiers, leaving jobs vacant, but the war effort was supported by women. Since most of the men had gone to the front, with the exception of older men, the disabled, and the young boys, the women replaced their husbands, brothers … in the factories, for example by manufacturing weapons and shells.
In particular, they reconverted the production of factories like Renault to produce war material essential for men to defend themselves at the front of the First World War. Of course there were also nurses at the front who treated the wounded.
So during the First World War, women in civilian clothes were a decisive help, that’s also why we talk about a total war: both front and rear, World War I was everywhere and mobilized all resources.
How was the post-World War era ?
World War I ended on November 11, 1918 at 11 am sharp and it did a lot of damage. Destroyed cities, many dead, but also many wounded, called the “jaws broken” because they had the deformed face because of the explosions of shells. The world had to rebuild itself.
Anecdote : When news of the armistice reached London, Big Ben rang the hour for the first time since the start of the war in 1914.
This war was therefore the starting point for enormous political changes. For example, after the First World War, the Ottoman, Austro-Hungarian, Russian and German empires were dissolved and new countries were born and emerges like Czechoslovakia, Poland and Ukraine. The First World War was very expensive and it took countries to rebuild to regain the economic stability they no longer had.
It was only one year after the armistice, on June 28, 1919, that the peace treaty between Germany and the allies was signed. This treaty, called the Versailles Treaty because the place chosen was the Hall of Mirrors of the Palace of Versailles, introduced the League of Nations, an organization that will later be replaced by the UN.
But the “Last of Last” was not, as you know, the last of all wars, because it was followed by the Second World War in 1939-1945. However, the years following the First World War were marked by very strong economic growth, and by the hope of a world in peace. Europe is discovering Jazz, it’s also the beginnings of Art Deco, as well as radio … The world chooses to have fun and to get started in what we will remember as “the roaring twenties “.
World War I is an important historical landmark that is taught at school so as not to be forgotten. It is a work of memory, so as not to repeat the mistakes of the past.
How is the 100th anniversary of the First World War commemorated?
Each year, the French commemorate the armistice of the First World War on November 11 and at 11 am, a minute of silence is done. On television, you can see the Avenue des Champs-Elysées on this day without circulation because it is reserved for the commemoration of the armistice of the First World War during which the President of the Republic makes a speech in tribute to the many victims of the First World War. When there were still Poilus, some went to Paris to commemorate the armistice but today, they are all dead. In some primary schools in France, on November 11, children read letters that soldiers wrote to their families during the First World War to show that they were not forgotten. In the archives, many letters have been kept because they allow to know how was perceived the First World War by the soldiers at the front.
Museums on the First World War
There are museums on the First World War throughout France, mainly in the north-east of the country. In the Somme, department of Hauts-de-France, for example, there is the Historial Museum of the Great War in Peronne where you can see old soldiers’ outfits of the First World War as well as weapons, guns and many objects found as dishes. We invite you to visit the website historial.fr for more information!
The memorials on the First World War
There is also the Thiepval Memorial which is a monument paying tribute to soldiers who have disappeared or died in World War I battles. It has a French cemetery and a British cemetery with 300 gravestones each and even if all the soldiers were not found, their names on these graves can remember them to pay homage.
Also in the Somme is the Beaumont-Hamel Newfoundland Memorial. It is a historical site because it is an old battlefield that it is possible to visit. Covered with grass, the site has many shell holes and also old trenches where it is possible to sneak. The site has a particularity: it is Canadian! It is one of only 2 national historic sites in the world to belong to Canada outside of Canada.
The 100 Years Agenda of the First World War
Communities around the world gather silently at 11 am on November 11 to remember the victims.
As it is the centenary of the armistice of the First World War in 2018, several films, exhibitions, colloquiums, seminars, street shows, documentaries and plays are planned in France and other countries to discover and understand this Great War.
For 100 years of the First World War, all national currencies of the countries that participated in the First World War issue currencies and medals: France, Great Britain, United States, Canada, Australia, Portugal …
Visit centennial.org to follow the 2018 calendar and commemorate the centenary of the First World War armistice!