“If war was once a chivalrous duel, it is now a dastardly slaughter.”
Artur von Bolfras, Colonel-General, Austrian Army
One hundred years ago in November 1918, the war which many believed would end all wars came to its conclusion and the clouds of doom which had enveloped Europe for so long were lifted, writes Eamonn Duggan.
The slaughter of the previous four years and four months was responsible for 41 million casualties including some 18 million deaths of which 10 million were on the battlefield. Hardly a family across Europe escaped the dreaded telegram informing them of the death of a loved one.
The trenches which now hauntingly symbolise the horrors of the war took husbands, brothers and boyfriends leaving many communities bereft of their male component and the cause of many social problems in the years following the conflict.
Though Ireland was spared the horrific spectacle of battlefields, the country was no less impacted as approximately 205,000 of her men fought for king and country, democracy and the preservation of small nations.
So, when the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month arrived in 1918, the world – and Europe in particular – rejoiced and gave thanks but the sadness and grief which had been endured since 1914 was set to remain for many years to come. One hundred years after the end of the “Great War”, the world is set to remember all of those who lost their lives and Ireland, like every other country impacted by the conflict, will play her part in making sure that they will never be forgotten.
Indications that the war was coming to an end began to surface in October 1918 when the final Allied push towards the German border began on the 17th of the month. It was clear that the Central Powers alliance was collapsing as Turkey signed an armistice at the end of the month followed by Austria-Hungary signing on 3 November.
A mutiny of German sailors took place in Kiel on 29 October and within a couple of days they had taken complete control of the city and the revolution began to spread across the country.