I prefer Armistice Day, which is what it was called when I was a child. We remembered that the Great War, the war to end all wars , was ended with an armistice signed in the 11th month, on the 11th day at the 11th hour in 1918.
On this day, we remember the sacrifice of all those who died in this war and subsequent wars: WWII, Korea and Peacekeeping Missions around the World. Currently, we remember the soldiers who have died as a result of our involvement in Afghanistan.
For most of us the central act of our rememberance is a two minute silence at 11:00 AM wearing our poppy, the symbol of this day which dates from WWI. There is, of course, the offical ceremony broadcast from Ottawa.
It is the most serious of demands that a country can make on its citizens, to risk one's life in a military conflict. Our leaders have a heavy responsibility to ask any of us to do this. They need always to be held account for their decisions.
A propaganda poster from WWI
As a form of remembrance on this day I like to read a little about one of the wars, it's history, people's lives and battles. I am particularly fascinated with WWI. It was an unimaginably dirty war where soldiers were expendible commodities.
This year with the Canadian film, Passchendaele,a dramatization, we are reminded of one of the nastiest campaigns. Canada, in its courageous effort lost 16,000 soldiers while making the difference in this battle. The Allies lost about 500,000 and the Germans 260,000 all for a very muddy part of Belgium , which once won was shortly after abandoned to the enemy. Many bodies were never recovered. Soldiers just fell in the mud and water, dead or to drown and then just to be trampled into the ground. It was calculated that in one square mile one million bombs were dropped. It is hard to imagine such a devastating casualty toll would be acceptable today. Of course, now technological warfare can devastate the enemy from a distance.
During WWI Canada had a population of about 8 million. 600,000 Canadians went off to the war in defense of the British Empire. Canada was still in many ways a British colony. For the first time Canadians fought together as the Canadian Corp within the British military. By WWII, Canada, as an independent country sent 1 million troops toward that war effort. While we are not a militarized society, Canadians have a proud military history of honourable and courageous service when called, "for God and country."
Below are some websites I spend much of the weekend reading. To further understand the First World war I recommend them to you, starting with The First World War. com. It is full of information. I was particularly interested in the poetry and songs of the time. They are interesting to read and listen to. The poster collection at McGill are works of popular art which tell us a lot about the period of time. Also, very interesting are the War Artists of the First World War. (Among there were three of the Canadian Group of Seven artists, Jackson, Lismer and Varley).
To go on and read about the life and times of an ordinary soldier read the blog assembled from the correspondence of The experience of a WWI British Soldier or visit the Oral Histories of the First World War.
War is so much more that battles and politics. it is about ordinary people, their lives and their times.Looking at these Internet resources can make the war and its era come alive , real to us. for a time so very long ago, worthy of remebrance.