Lest We Forget – Remembering World War Veterans Who Sacrificed For Freedom

Lest We Forget – Remembering World War Veterans Who Sacrificed For Freedom

The 11th of November is a date that marks the day that the First World War ended over 100 years ago on November 11th at 11 AM – the 11th hour, 11th month, and 11th day. This date had significance then and still has significance today for people all over the world. It marked the end of hostilities during World War I, and today it marks the commemoration of all veterans, past and present.

On this day we wear a poppy to honour, remember, and respect the courage and the sacrifice of veterans. We look back at history and learn so that we can teach the youth of the next generation. We hold Remembrance Day parades and ceremonies to show significance and importance, while also to pay respect and pass it on to the next generation.

November 11th, known as Remembrance Day in Canada or Veterans Day in the United States of America, has rejuvenated interest over the decades in recalling the military sacrifice and the history of the world wars in the 20th century, attracting thousands of people to ceremonies in cities and towns, large and small, all around the world, to honour the fallen and pay respect to the veterans. On this day we also must remember the horrors of war and the importance to embrace world peace.

World War I began near the beginning of the 20th Century; however, by the end of it, it became the bloodiest century of conflict in human history. To this day we can still see the scars on the land left behind by World War II and the First World War, with long trenches and artillery craters scarring the earth and remnants of wreckage, ruins, and infantry equipment still scattering the lands. Many of the battlefields are still too dangerous for people to walk, due to unexploded artillery shells littering the land.

The First World War brought on fighting that was revolutionized by new technology, high-explosive artillery shells, and powerful machine guns. Biological warfare with poisonous gas occurred, in addition to the use of submarines, and warplanes, which were all fairly new additions. Technological advancements were fast-moving and each side was hard at work to get the advantage. The battle on the western front of Europe quickly turned into a stalemate of trench fighting and heavy artillery bombardment shelling, reshaping the landscape, with the front line zigzagging for nearly 1,000 km from the coast of Belgium to the border of Switzerland.

Many of the battlefields of World War I have now become museums of sorts and sites of preservation to show and teach public visitors and the newest generation about the history of the battlefield and the larger conflict, as well as to give them a sense of how it was actually like.

During the Battle of The Somme in World War I, there were 300,000 Allied lives claimed and over a million casualties inflicted in total with the battle of the Somme lasting from July 1st until November 13, 1916. On the first day of the battle, the British forces lost 19,240 soldiers.

During the Battle of Vimy Ridge in World War I, 100,000 Canadian Soldiers fought in the battle beginning on April 9th, lasting until April 12, 1917. A total of 3,598 Canadian soldiers died with 7,004 wounded – becoming the most Canadian deaths recorded in the war. 15,000 Canadians fought in the first wave of the assault, as the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Division fought on through the day, steadily advancing through German defences, and in many cases, having to overcome determined heavy enemy resistance.

The Dominion of Canada entered the war as a colony governed by the British Empire, as after the war and through many hard-fought victorious battles such as Vimy Ridge, Canada gained its own distinguished status on the international stage – spurring enthusiasm in Canada and awakening Canadian nationalism.

Beaumont-Hamel Newfoundland Memorial in France - March 24, 1917 - Over The Top

This photo shows combat footage of an officer leading soldiers over the top of the trenches near Arras, France on March 24, 1917.

Remains of WW1 Shell Craters and German trenches at the Beaumont-Hamel Battlefield Memorial, France

This photo is what the trenches look like today in France. Before the war, this entire area was covered with a thick dense forest. That forest fast became a bombed barren muddy wasteland during World War I. This area was also the site where the Battle of Somme took place in 1916, between the German Empire and the French/British forces. More than 3 million men fought in the Battle of Somme and the casualties topped 1 million men, making it one of the bloodiest battles in human history.

Soldiers of an Australian 4th Division Field Artillery Brigade - WWI in Belgium - 1917

Soldiers of an Australian 4th Division field artillery brigade, walk on a duckboard track laid across a muddy, shattered battlefield in Chateau Wood, near Hooge, Belgium, on October 29, 1917. This was during the Battle of Passchendaele, fought by British forces and their allies against Germany for control of territory near Ypres, Belgium.

While nature has healed the land, the scars of the battlefield remain and are still seen today.  The pictures that we see and can compare from the battlefield over a century ago from the First World War to now are stunning and can really make the hair on the back of your neck stand. These photographs of the past remind us that even though time keeps moving forward, the scars can still remain and it is important to remember the past lessons, learn the history, and honour and respect the fallen by telling their stories. We live in a modern world today where the top news moves quick and trends come and go fast, as the technological innovative advances of today’s modern world have made it easy to forget about the past and how we got to where we are right now, along with the lessons to take forward into the future challenges we face.

Over the decades and now a century later, the stories and photographs of the many battles over the course of human history have been taught, shared, and passed on to the next generations. Though the date of November 11th began after World War I as Armistice Day in the USA, it has since transformed into Veterans Day and has become a day of remembrance and respect for all veterans. It is important to continue to show respect and compassion, to honour the veterans and pass on the history to the next generation.

Lest We Forget.