LESSONS OF WAR
100 YEARS SINCE THE GUNS FELL SILENT IN THE GLOBAL CONFLICT THAT SHAPED OUR NATION
AUSTRALIANS don’t have to wander too far from their homes to witness the enduring legacy of their forebears’ sacrifices in Europe, Africa and the Middle East during the Great War of 1914-18.
The fact we see the names of far-flung battlefields in the streets and parks of virtually every Australian city and town is testament to how Australians have long since reconciled grief with pride while always remembering the terrible lessons of war.
Where monuments stand tall and the dead are quiet, those names were then — and are still — spoken in the hushed and grieving tones only a young and naive nation could know. That endurance of name and commemoration probably says more about the horror, courage and sacrifices young men and women made during World War I than a dozen dusty textbooks.
Passchendaele, Ypres, Fromelles, The Somme, Pozieres, Villers-Bretonneux, Palestine, Egypt and, of course, Gallipoli (Anzac Cove, Lone Pine and The Nek) have become, over the past 100 years, hallowed names and places. To borrow poet Rupert Brooke’s immortal lines, they are also “some corner of a foreign field that is forever Australia”.
Tomorrow marks exactly 100 years since the guns fell silent in Europe after more than four years of bloody conflict that claimed 17 million lives (including 7 million civilians) and brought down four empires: the Ottoman, Hapsburg, Romanov and AustriaHungarian.
While the war didn’t officially end until the signing of the Treaty of Versailles on June 28, 1919, the Armistice at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month has since stood as a steely reminder of man’s inhumanity to man.