Remembrance Day is still months away. But today marks the beginning of that final end to the First World War: the "Hundred Days Offensive," as it came to be known, began at Amiens and pushed back the enemy in Northern France, until the Armistice was signed on a train car at Compeigne, in the early hours of Nov. 11, 1918. When it came into effect at 11 a.m., the guns fell silent, and the process of remaking Europe, ravaged by four years of total war, began.
We are all well aware that the peace that followed did not last, resulting in an even more terrible war; for that matter, the Russian Revolution, a direct result from the bloodletting that was the First World War, went on to kill more people than both world wars, in the form of collectivist economies that ensured starvation for millions. The endless violence and brutality of the 20th century is inextricably tied to the First World War and the assassination that started it in 1914.
This presents us with a conundrum and a problem of historical perspective, As we walk with our ancestors through these next 100 days, we remember their bold sacrifices; and if we do this consistently, perhaps using a "this day in history" website, our hearts will be prepared to mourn their losses and celebrate the peace that came about when we gather on November 11th. But we must still face the truth that "the War to End All Wars," did not actually prevent more conflict.
Much of the existential doubt that plagues the West today is tied up in this issue; all of the hopes of progress and ascendancy that marked the later half of the 19th xentury died on the battlefields of Ypres, the Somme, and Passchendaele. And the Imperial powers that fell apart in the aftermath of the First World War and the Second, as well as the brutal post-colonial wars that ensued, has added to the fear and despair still informing many policies in democracies today.
There is not space here to detail the various ways this has affected our culture, nor can we expect to build world peace in a day; in fact, a tragic sense of life is probably a better place to start, as the inherent goodness of man has been supremely refuted by the last 100 years.
But "never again," is still a banner worth rallying to - and like most things in life, I would hazard to guess it begins by solving the conflicts in our own lives, then communities, and then, perhaps, the nation. You may think that sounds contrived, but in the case of The Great War it is absolutely applicable: notwithstanding our forces' bravery, we must recall that all the belligerents were royal relatives; perhaps world peace really does begin with solving our own family feuds.