2014 Fall event pre-announcement: World War I remembrance day
Saturday 15 November
In August 2014 the world marks the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of the First World War. By the end of the First World War there were very few people in the countries that took part who remained unaffected. The war reached out and touched almost everyone’s life in some way or other.
Children grew up in the shadow of battle, their fathers absent or lost. Women became directly involved, picking up the pieces of industry and agriculture as the men went off to fight. By 1918, they too could join the army and serve their country.
Men enlisted, or were called up, in their millions, being sent to fight in places that many had never heard of before. It was a global struggle. Life changed forever. Nothing was ever the same again.
‘Sometimes I don’t think about it for months on end, then I come back and dream about it all. How really extraordinary it was. I can’t quite get it out of my system. I can’t sleep sometimes. I just think about it.’
Stephen Williamson looking back at the First World War in 1985
In the opening moves of the war, both in the West and the East, the nature of modern warfare soon became clear. Armies were numbered in the hundreds of thousands. Modern weapons rapidly caused heavy casualties and laid waste to whole communities. Soldiers went to ground, digging trenches and dugouts that soon began to feel almost permanent.
The crucible of war also proved very creative. Aircraft developed quickly, taking death and destruction into the sky. New ways of fighting made better and more effective use of huge quantities of shells and bullets manufactured on a scale never seen before.
“I felt that I didn’t want to live, I’d no wish to live at all, because the world had come to an end, then, for me, because I’d lost all that I’d loved.”
Kitty Morter remembering the birth of her baby after her husband had died on the Somme
The power unleashed by modern war 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 more than 21 million wounded. 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. 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.
“I am for the front on Tuesday, but if you write and say I am only seventeen it will stop me from going. Don’t forget.”
Stephen Brown to his mother, April 1915. He was killed in action at Ypres a month later.
Sometimes the First World War feels like distant history. The jumpy black and white films, the unfamiliar clothes and the horses pulling wagons, all look like something from a world long forgotten. Yet the last soldiers who fought in the war have only recently died. Only a few of the 1914–18 generation, who witnessed the war but were too young to take part, are still alive. The war is slipping inexorably beyond the fringes of living memory and, so we have to work harder to make sure we do not forget.
The Fulbright Alumni Association Belgium would like to take this unique opportunity to visit Ypres, an important enough site in the Belgian war context, but even more so in a global context due to it being the site of the first use of chemical warfare agents.
The program is not fully finalized, but here’s a sneak preview of what we have in mind for you:
09.00 h: Departure by bus in Brussels
10.30 h: Arrival in Ypres: Battlefield coach tour: northern salient
13.30 h: Lunch in brasserie Kazematten
14.30 h: CWXRM workshop (group 1) + walk on the ramparts (group 2)
15.15 h: CWXRM workshop (group 2) + walk on the ramparts (group 1)
16.00 h: Coffee break
16.30 h: Visit museum “In Flanders Fields”
18.00 h: Dinner in Ypres city centre
20.00 h: The Last Post
20.15 h: Departure
21.45 h: Arrival in Brussels
So: please stay tuned for more specifics as the program matures – but don’t forget to block your calendars already for this unique event on Saturday November 15th.
We’ve tried to keep the price for this full day program as low as possible to allow everyone to join in. We expect this be be about 35 euro pp.
We hope to greet many of you at this important site, at this momentous anniversary. Stay tuned for final enrollment detail.
The organizers, Filip Vandevelde and Paulien Detailleur
(Introductory text credit: http://www.1914.org/why_remember/)