Commemorations of the Centenary of the nd of the First World War
The Embassy of France to the OECS Member States and to Barbados, in residence in Saint Lucia, reminds us that November 11 this year marks the centenary of the end of the First World War, which ravaged Europe and parts of the world from July 28, 1914 to November 11, 1918.
Concluding with the military victory of the Allies, the First World War, dubbed the Great War, left a terrible record on the human, social, political, diplomatic, cultural and demographic levels. Humanity had never experienced such terrible losses in a single war: 22.5 million dead, wounded or missing on the side of the Allies, 16.4 million on the side of the Central Empires.
1,400,000 French soldiers were counted dead, 27% of the nation’s young men aged 18 to 27 and the second highest rate of loss, after unfortunate Serbia, of the total Allied casualties.
The battle of Verdun alone symbolizes all the horror of this war. It opposed the French and German armies for 300 days, from February 21 to December 18, 1916 in the region of Verdun in Lorraine. It created more than 700,000 casualties (dead, missing or wounded): 362,000 French soldiers and 337,000 Germans; an average of 70,000 victims for each of the ten months of the battle, more than 1,000 deaths per day in each camp. How to better illustrate the futility of these fights?
The Great War was global. The fighting took place not only throughout Europe and part of Eurasia but also on all the oceans of the world, including the Western Atlantic waters.
Since 1922, November 11 has been a national holiday in countries that commemorate victory and peace. A national tribute to the dead, a ceremony is held in front of the tomb of the Unknown Soldier, marked in particular by a taking of arms, the laying of wreaths and the ringing “to the Dead”. This ritual is repeated in all the cemeteries and military memorials of the Great War, as well as at the foot of communal war memorials.
This year, for the centenary of the end of this atrocious war, French President Emmanuel Macron is attending a series of highly symbolic events. After a week of visits and tribute ceremonies on the sites of multiple battlefields, the President of the French Republic, accompanied by the German Chancellor Angela Merkel, joined a ceremony on Sunday November 4 at the Armistice Glade, in the commune of Compiègne, marked by the simplicity of a moment of recollection and homage.
On November 5, President Macron spoke at an international ceremony at the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, in the presence of a hundred foreign dignitaries. As in previous years, the countries that participated in the Great War came to commemorate in 2018 the memory of their soldiers fallen in France. Throughout the year, the Portuguese, Australian, American, Czech, Slovak, British, Canadian, New Zealand, and Germans authorities have organised, or participated in the organisation of, ceremonies honouring their soldiers. More than 120 foreign dignitaries representing the belligerent countries of the Great War, the European institutions, the United Nations and several other international organisations are invited to a ceremony on November 11.
The Paris Forum for Peace is the natural continuation of the commemoration of the end of this terrible war. It was opened on November 5 at the Grande Halle de la Villette in Paris, in the presence of foreign dignitaries invited to the ceremony on November 11, joined by some of their counterparts who did not participate but were invited to attend the opening ceremony in the afternoon.
Because peace is currently losing ground every day in the world, this Peace Forum will bring together heads of state and government, leaders of international organisations, NGOs, intellectuals, stakeholders, all those who want to think, take action, drive modern multilateralism and build peace, because peace is in danger. The risk of division, nationalism, inward-looking attitudes, the great fears which can cause democracy to doubt itself, the lack of international co-operation; this is what our world might currently be going through. The Forum, which will run until November 13, aims to make concrete proposals on global peace and governance in all their aspects, and reinvent multilateralism and all modern forms of co-operation to ensure peace gains ground every day.
Nothing is impossible to men of good will.
“We know the strength with which nationalism and totalitarianism can undermine democracies and threaten the very concept of civilization.” — Emmanuel Macron, President of the French Republic.