When the allied forces and Germany signed the armistice at Compiègne, France on November 11, 1918, it marked the end of hostilities on the Western Front and ended World War I.
The Great War, as it was known at the time, was the “war to end all wars”, though as we mark 100 years since the signing of the agreement; that once idealistic phrase now takes on a sardonic tone.
“Yet when we achieved, and the new world dawned, the old men came out again and took our victory to remake it in the likeness of the former world they knew,” T.E. Lawrence said in 1928.
For the most part, we have lived a life of freedom in Australia, but the past century has been littered with conflict in many theatres of war around the world.
A decade after Lawrence lamented, the world was at war again for the second time. Then came Korea, Vietnam, the Gulf wars, East Timor, military missions in Iraq and Afghanistan and many others scattered in between.
The peace that was anticipated and hoped for at the signing of the armistice agreement on the 11th hour, of the 11th day, on the 11th month in 1918, remains seemingly out of reach.
The fight for power (political, religious and financial), land (extended borders) and resources seemingly continues. There will be sides that claim victory in each of these conflicts, but who really wins and at what cost?
It is our servicemen and women that have continued to make sacrifices while the rest of us have enjoyed the fruits of the “lucky country”.
Wherever there is someone – or some group – determined to gain world supremacy, the true meaning of the word “peace”, will never be enjoyed by all.
Yet when we achieved, and the new world dawned, the old men came out again and took our victory to remake it in the likeness of the former world they knew,T.E. Lawrence
World War I was a turning point in history, not only for our understanding of the depths of violence in war, but also the fragility of peace, the power of demagoguery and the importance of international institutions.
As we mark this Remembrance Day and all that it symbolises – peace, service, sacrifice – let us not lose sight of the aspirations that all those men and women who fought and served in the Great War had: a world at peace.
“Lest we forget.” This Sunday, let us remember those who served and died. But, let us also remember the history that consumed them. Lest it also consume us.