The Centenary of World War I

19/03/2018 14:48

November 11th 2018 marks exactly 100 years since the hostilities of WWI ceased, and guns finally fell silent after member countries of the Central Powers signed armistice agreements one by one, confirming the end of battle. Globally, the war was on a scale never before conceivable, and is regarded as the first in which the opponents made use of all possible assets, comprising of military, industrial, and human. A colossal amount of new technology was also utilised, including aeroplanes, tanks, and submarines.

The number of service personnel involved totalled over 65 million, and whilst it is unknown precisely how many lost their lives fighting, the number estimated is a staggering 10 million, with an additional 7 million civilians killed.  These figures exemplify how the majority have a connection to WWI. Such links may be through personal family history, the heritage of local communities and countries, or due to the long term impact on humanity. No other conflict before or since has shaped the course of history as considerably.

Fittingly falling on Remembrance Sunday, this year’s Armistice Day will be commemorated with events across the world. The UK will see nationally expanded events on this significant occasion, with church bells ringing out across Britain, just as they did on this same day during 1918. The Cenotaph Service, held in London annually, will bring together thousands, with the Queen traditionally paying tribute alongside political leaders and representatives of the military. Additionally, two minutes silence will be held across the UK, as a mark of respect for those lost not just during the ‘Great War’, but in more recent conflicts too.

2018 likewise coincides with 100 years since the formation of the Royal Air Force as we know it today, independent from the Army and Navy. Given Royal Assent by King George V in 1917, and fighting from the 1st April 1918 over the Western Front, the RAF was at the time the most advanced in the world, with over 290,000 personnel and nearly 23,000 aircraft.

From these remarkable beginnings a century ago, to the impressive force we know today, this year will be one to reflect on the RAF’s history and accomplishments. The centenary will be honoured with commemorations across the country, including concerts, parades, and military demonstrations. Furthermore, air shows will take place nationwide, showcasing some of the most iconic aeroplanes used during the past 100 years, such as the Spitfire and the Avro Lancaster.

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