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A look back at the Great War: Guns fall silent

Armistice Day in Ballymena Co Antrim
Armistice Day in Ballymena Co Antrim
Claire Williamson

By Claire Williamson

After four years and four months of brutal warfare - World War One ended at 11am on November 11, 1918.

Yesterday was the anniversary, marking 96 years since Germany signed an agreement for peace - prepared by Britain and France - meaning no more fighting.

At the start of 1918 Germany was in a strong position and expected to win the war.

It launched an attack against the Allies on the Somme. But its planned quick victory failed with the strength of the counter-attack by France and Britain.

By this time the US had joined the war and with hundreds of thousands of American troops arriving in France, Germany realised it was no longer possible to win the war. Its navy mutinied and the leaders of the army told the German government to end the fighting. Two days later Germany signed the armistice and hostilities stopped.

People in Britain, France and all of the countries that supported them joined together to celebrate the end of the war. 

However, despite their joy and relief, many felt it wrong to celebrate because of the number of people who had died as a result of the fighting.

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In Ireland, many veterans returning to nationalist areas were met with hostility. For them the high public honour and celebration with which they had departed contrasted sharply with the changed circumstances of their return.

Ever since the first Remembrance Day, people have followed the same tradition stopping on November 11 for a moment of silence and reflection. Poppies came to be used as a way to remember soldiers who died, because of how the flowers sprung up and grew on the barren battlefields of World War One.

After the war the Allied countries wanted to ensure peace would last for a long time.

In 1919 Lloyd George of Britain, Clemenceau of France and Woodrow Wilson from the US met to discuss how Germany was to be made pay for the damage World War One had caused. Italy was largely sidelined for it had first joined with Germany and then later changed its mind. It was not completely trusted.

Wilson had devised a 14-point plan he believed would bring stability to Europe. Among the proposals was that Germany would give up any lands taken during the war. Germany expected a treaty based on these points, however the French were not happy and wanted more.

The leaders of the US, Britain and France met to decide what should happen next and Germany, Austria and Hungary were not invited. They then told the other countries' leaders to meet them in Versailles, in France.

They had created an agreement called the Treaty of Versailles.

Germany was shocked by how strict it was. It had to accept total blame for starting the war and therefore pay for the devastation caused during it. Its people were angry.

Among the restrictions imposed on Germany was a ban from joining up with Austria or having an army of more than 100,000 men.

It also was not allowed to have submarines or an air force .

The other countries which fought with Germany were also punished.

After the war soldiers' lives were never the same again as many still suffered from shellshock or were disabled. It was very hard for them to forget all the horrors they had seen.

Belfast Telegraph


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