The 99th anniversary of the 1917 armistice is time to reflect again

News Letter editorial
News Letter editorial

The armistice in the Great War was signed 99 years ago today.

It brought to an end a nightmarish conflict, that dragged on for more than four years.

There are computer graphics, easily available online, that map movement on the western front – beginning with rapid German advances in 1914, then quickly moving to a stalemate that lasted almost until 1918.

Minor breakthroughs by one side or the other are typically pushed back. Almost all of these advancements came at disastrous cost in terms of loss of life.

The 1916 Somme offensive, in which so many Ulstermen died, was one such attempt at a breakthrough.

The English poet Siegfried Sassoon was decorated for bravery in the war, but never became jingoistic. He wrote:

“You smug-faced crowds with kindling eye, Who cheer when soldier lads march by, Sneak home and pray you’ll never know, The hell where youth and laughter go”

Almost no-one alive today, apart from a handful of heroic volunteer veterans of Afghanistan and other wars, have any sense of the hell to which Sassoon referred.

All we can do is think of, and give thanks to, those who did know, and who lost their lives going through it.

For all the shallow materialism of much of the wealthy modern world, Remembrance Sunday, tomorrow, is still a major event, even if Remembrance Day, today, is less so. But we do still try to remember, and long may that be so.