Remember Them As You Must
As the first of two World Wars, the Great War is a chilling reminder of the atrocities of war and death. The purpose of this post is to remind us not only of the horrifying realities of war, but also of the brave men and women who fought for their countries. Some of them made the ultimate sacrifice on the battlefield, whilst others lost limbs and struggled to adapt to life after the war. Though the study of history ought to be objective, on days like these, it can help us appreciate and understand that sacrifice.
Arguably, the Great War began with a single Serbian militant, who assassinated the heir to the Austria-Hungary throne, the Archduke Franz Ferdinand. Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia, which led to the formation of international alliances: Germany gave military backing to Austria-Hungary, and Russia to Serbia. On 3rd August 1914, British Foreign Secretary Sir Edward Grey gave his speech to the British people: war was imminent. That same day, Germany declared war on France, and the battle raged between Germany and Russia. Britain could no longer sit idly by to watch Europe crumble; she had to mobilise and support her allies. Thus by the fourth of August 1914, Europe was engulfed in gunfire and by 1918 the world itself was a battlefield.
As part of his closing statement, Sir Edward states that ‘we shall be supported throughout . . . by the determination, the resolution, the courage, and the endurance of the whole country.’ Soldiers valorously answered this call. At the start of the war, Britain did not have a large military force. This meant that it entered the war with the British Expeditionary Force (BEF): a small contingency which, on paper, amounted to 700,000 — though only 150,000 were immediately available. By the end of the war, 2.3 million had been conscripted but an impressive 2.6 million had volunteered. Remarkably, the number of people who volunteered outnumbered those conscripted. Death tolls vary from source to source, but one thing is certain: across the European continent, millions laid down their lives.
We wear the poppy as a reminder of that bloodshed during the war. It is easy to forget the importance of November 11th and, by extension, those individuals who died for their countries. Yet as long as we remember the past, they will not be forgotten. Remembrance Day is not about the alliances, the politicians or the officials in Whitehall. It’s about the soldiers. They went to war with no guarantee of return, leaving everything behind. Our team of historians at History To The Public agree that, above all, Remembrance Day is about those soldiers who fought and died for our freedom. Forget your race, forget your creed, forget it all. Remember them as you must.