Today, the world is marking 100 years of Armistice that ended World War I, which claimed an estimated 40 million lives.
In the midst of all these reminiscences, world leaders are apprehensive that the build up of nationalism that led to the war is rearing its ugly head again. French President, Emmanuel Macron, expressed this fear last week during the tour of the affected areas.
Touring wartime battlefields in the east and north of France this week ahead of Sunday’s Armistice ceremonies, President Macron warned of ongoing threats to Europe, saying the continent must create its own army.
“We need to protect ourselves from China, Russia and even the United States. When I see President Trump announcing a pullout from a big disarmament treaty that was taken in the middle of the 1980s in the middle of the missile crisis, which had affected Europe, who is going to be the main victim? Europe and its security,” Macron said.
Though, some analysts still argue that World War I should be referred to as European war, the whole world was affected. Last week, the Prince of Wales, Charles, laid wreath at the national military cemetery in Abuja, on behalf of the British government for the soldiers that died during the war. By virtue of colonial relationship with Great Britain, millions of Nigerian soldiers were drafted into the war. An estimated one thousand of them were said to have died in that war.
The global day of commemoration of WWI Armistice, world leaders say, is a day of reflection on the steps that have been taken since the war to avoid a repeat. Nigeria’s President, Muhammadu Buhari has joined other world leaders to commemorate the day.
With the end of the WWII, analysts say institutions like the United Nations have worked in the last 70 years to prevent the repeat of WWI&II.
Armistice Day is commemorated every year on 11 November to mark the armistice signed between the Allies of World War I and Germany at Compiègne, France, for the cessation of hostilities on the Western Front of World War I, which took effect at eleven o’clock in the morning—the “eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month” of 1918. The armistice initially expired after a period of 36 days. A formal peace agreement was only reached when the Treaty of Versailles was signed the following year.
The date is a national holiday in France, and was declared a national holiday in many allied nations. In some countries, Armistice Day coincides with Remembrance Day, Veterans’ Day, and other public holidays. Armistice Day is not celebrated in Germany, but a German national day of mourning. Volkstrauertag has, since 1952, been observed on the Sunday closest to 16 November.
Traveling from across the world to battlefields where their soldiers fell 100 years ago, victors and vanquished alike marked those sacrifices ahead of Sunday’s Armistice Day and assessed alliances that have been dramatically redrawn since those dark days.
A century ago, the entry of US troops into World War I tipped the momentum toward its allies, including France and Britain. President Donald Trump, who is in France for the commemoration, said his nation bears far too much of the burden to defend the West.
Almost 10 Million Soldiers Died
Yet, despite a war that was supposed to end all wars, World War II, pitted both sides against each other once again.
Across the line that once marked the Western Front, leaders lauded the courage of soldiers who were killed during the unprecedented slaughter, before converging on Paris for dinner.
The armistice entered into force on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, and on Sunday, 69 world leaders will mark the centennial of the event at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, underneath the Arc de Triomphe in central Paris.
At dawn on Saturday, Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, went to Vimy Ridge, the battlefield in northern France where Canada found its sense of self when it defeated German opposition against the odds.
Standing amid the white headstones against an ashen sky, Trudeau addressed the fallen; saying what Canada has achieved in the past century has been “a history built on your sacrifice. You stand for the values on which Canada was built.”
In Southern Belgium’s Mons, Canadians were also lauding George Price, the last Commonwealth soldier to die in the war when a German sniper shot him two minutes before the armistice took effect.
The battle of Belleau Wood proved America’s mettle to allies and foes alike, and by the time the war ended, US forces were at least equal to any of the other major armies, which were exhausted and depleted.
By end of the war, more than 116,000 American troops had died defending Europe. More than 14,000 are buried at the Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery, the largest on the continent.