RE­MEM­BRANCE DAY: A cen­tury af­ter fight­ing for Paris, lead­ers from around the world gather to mark ar­mistice

The Peterborough Examiner - - Front Page - RAF CASERT

Paris, the City of Light, al­ways was the grand­est prize of the

First World War, ei­ther to con­quer or de­fend.

So it is only fit­ting that when vic­tors and van­quished meet to mark the cen­ten­nial of the ar­mistice this week­end, the big­gest cer­e­mony should be on the famed Champs-Élysées at the Arc de Tri­om­phe.

On Fri­day, some lead­ers be­gan re­mem­brance events in a wide cres­cent of ceme­ter­ies and trench-rut­ted bat­tle­fields north of the cap­i­tal.

Bri­tish Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May laid wreaths for the first and last Bri­tish sol­dier killed in the fight­ing — the two were buried across one an­other near

Mons in south­ern Bel­gium.

One grave holds the re­mains of Pte. John Parr, killed Aug. 21, 1914.

The other grave is of Pte. Ge­orge El­li­son, who sur­vived some of the war’s worst bat­tles but was shot on Nov. 11, 1918 — the war’s last day.

French Pres­i­dent Em­manuel Macron con­tin­ued his pilgrimage of First World War sites and caught up with May, as the two present-day lead­ers of the Al­lied forces that de­feated Ger­many walked past graves at the Thiep­val memo­rial.

“Each ceme­tery and memo­rial across the world is a unique and poignant re­minder of the cost of the First World War,” said May.

Sixty-nine heads of state and govern­ment, in­clud­ing Cana­dian Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau, will un­der­score that mes­sage at the Tomb of the Un­known Sol­dier in Paris on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month on Sun­day, ex­actly a cen­tury af­ter the ar­mistice.

Such was the sym­bolic im­por­tance of the French cap­i­tal that vic­to­ri­ous U.S. Gen. John J. Per­sh­ing said it was his “de­sire that ev­ery man in the Amer­i­can Ex­pe­di­tionary Forces should be given the op­por­tu­nity to visit Paris be­fore re­turn­ing to the United States.”

Far from ev­ery sur­viv­ing U.S. sol­dier from the 1914-18 war made it to the French cap­i­tal, but on Sun­day, Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump will join his French coun­ter­part and host, Em­manuel Macron, and oth­ers to re­mem­ber the mil­lions who died dur­ing the first global con­flict.

Alan Seeger, the Amer­i­can poet that Macron lauded in his speech to the U.S. Congress last year, al­ready cap­tured the seeds of rec­on­cil­i­a­tion in 1916 when he wrote, as a sol­dier in the French For­eign Le­gion, that “I never took arms out of any ha­tred against Ger­many or the Ger­mans, but purely out of love for France.”

France, Bri­tain and its em­pire, Rus­sia and the United States had the main armies op­pos­ing a Ger­man-led coali­tion that also in­cluded the Aus­tro-Hun­gar­ian and Ot­toman em­pires. Nearly 10 mil­lion sol­diers died, often in brutal trench war­fare where poi­son gas added a cru­elty in war­fare never seen be­fore.

Hun­dreds of thou­sands from all cor­ners of the world died in Europe, many of them on the Western Front reach­ing from Bel­gium’s Flan­ders Fields al­most up to the Swiss bor­der.

Car­ry­ing the her­itage of de­feated Ger­many, Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel will be vis­it­ing the site in the woods north of Paris where mil­i­tary lead­ers agreed in a train car­riage to the ar­mistice at 5 a.m. on Nov. 11, 1918, six hours be­fore it took ef­fect. Sun­day, in an­other show of rec­on­cil­i­a­tion, Merkel will open an in­ter­na­tional peace fo­rum in Paris with Macron and United Na­tions Sec­re­tary-Gen­eral An­to­nio Guter­res.

CHRISTO­PHER FUR­LONG GETTY IMAGES

Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May and Pres­i­dent Em­manuel Macron at a wreath-lay­ing cer­e­mony at Thiep­val Memo­rial on Fri­day in France.

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