This year, the event is particularly poignant, as it is 100 years since the First World War broke out. The war that had been expected to last no longer than a few months actually stretched on for four long and bloody years, leaving millions dead. The most destructive war the world had ever seen, its effects paved the way for both the Second World War and the Cold War, and are still keenly felt today.
At 11am, the country will fall silent for two minutes. This is a time for reflection, to give thanks to those who died so that we may live in freedom, not only in the two World Wars, but also in more recent conflicts. Many people choose to wear a poppy - as a symbol of both remembrance and hope that the world will never again witness such destruction.
More than 8.5 million soldiers lost their lives over the course of the First World War. The fighting was often completely indiscriminate and futile, and whilst the horrors of trench warfare are well known, they remain difficult to truly comprehend. In winter, the trenches often flooded and could even freeze, leading to the horrible condition, ‘trench foot’. Trenches were also infested with rats and lice. Incessant shelling and bombardment by artillery could lead to a breakdown, or ‘shell shock’, and soldiers were also constantly at risk from poison gas attacks. The whole experience must surely have been horrific.
By 1918, Germany was falling apart. The German population was seriously suffering, due to food shortages and the outbreak of influenza, and anti-war protests were becoming more and more frequent. The political tide was also turning domestically and when the Allies succeeded in halting the German advance in the summer of 1918, many in the German government began to seriously believe that the war must be ended. After Bulgaria, Turkey and Austria all signed armistices, thereby exiting the war, Germany was left alone to fight the Allies. On 9th November, the Kaiser abdicated and two days later the armistice was signed.
Unfortunately, the way that the Armistice of 1918 and the subsequent Treaty of Versailles were negotiated by the German politicians involved, as well as the fact that the Germany army had not been decisively beaten in the field, led to the development of the famous 'stab in the back' legend. The far-right seized upon this, including Hitler, who branded those who had signed the armistice as the 'November Criminals'. The swell of nationalist feeling that this promulgated in Germany is considered to have contributed to the rise of the Nazis and the outbreak of the Second World War.
We offer a number of WW1 and WW2 battlefield tours, primarily for history groups, although there are also some exciting opportunities for music and English literature groups also. Our tours allow students to put what they are studying in the classroom into context and are certain to inspire in them a love of the subject!
We are also currently offering a very special WW1 Centenary offerof 3 extra free places in addition to our usual free place ratio of 1 free place for every 8 students.
For further information on how to bring the events of WW1 and WW2 to life for your students, please do not hesitate to contact us.