How is World War 1 relevant to us today?
World War 1 shaped the 20th Century, from the use of trench warfare to poisonous gasses, tanks and machine guns, shown in Source D. America became a world power and dominated the world scene in the 20th Century. The British Empire reached its peak and the Russian Empire ended as a result of WW1, shaping politics during the recent events of the century. The peace treaty of WW1 and resulting reparations, resulted in the pent up resentment and splitting of countries that later lead to the horror of World War 2. Many technological and medical advances were also made during WW1, including the use of flying aircrafts and more advanced battlefield medical teams and medicines that helped reduce death from injuries. Woman played an important role during the war as well, as shown in Source A, working in factories, nursing on the battlefront and supporting logistics, this is also illustrated to us in Source B. This empowered the suffrage for woman and they were later allowed to vote.
All this makes World War 1 very relevant to us today and thus must be remembered.
This year, Annual Remembrance Day and the Centenary event has allowed WW1 to be remembered, especially by the younger generation who did not feel the direct impact of the war, but can now see how their previous generations fought for their freedom’s that they might take for granted today. The use of the Internet, websites and social media are also playing an important role in how WW1 is remembered today. However physical items, such as red poppies, are worn every year as a sign of remembrance.
Even before WW1, the red poppy was a symbol of death, renewal and life. During the war, fields were bombed, mined and churned up by tanks and the battles fought there. The poppy seeds that had been lying dormant underneath the soil had started to blossom and from late 1914, the fields of Northern France and the Flanders fields blossomed with millions of red poppies. Refer to source C for an additional outlook on this. Today the red poppy is symbol of the suffering of the war and the remembrance of the soldiers and civilians that died in WW1.
Memorials and statues are also being used to commemorate the events and casualties of this war. Source E is a good example of a memorial made to remember the battle at Delville Wood. A large variety of memorials were built all over the world, including civic memorials and larger national monuments as well as other designs such as halls and parks. These, much like red poppies, are dedicated to remembering all those who were involved in the conflict.
This makes it even more possible to remember all the events of the war and those victimized during its tragic battles. It is now easier and more important to commemorate WW1 all over the world, including in South Africa.
A large amount of South African soldiers were sent to France and Belgium in September of 1914 to fight on the side of the allies against Germany. Source E illustrates one of the more famous battles of WW1; the battle of Delville Wood, that was fought when a Brigade of South African troops had taken control and held the small forest of Delville Wood. Despite being bombarded by up to 400 shells a minute, they held on and after 6 days were relived. Over 3000 South African’s had died in that battle alone. It is thus very important to remember the sacrifice South African soldiers made during the war and also the thousands of volunteers that contributed to WW1. It is crucial to look back and recognize the South African soldiers that had fought alongside British troops that they were fighting against just 14 years earlier.
This year, a large amount of Centenary events are being held all over the world to allow the battles in WW1, such as that in Delville Wood, and those who died to be honoured and commemorated. These all include online, in the news and media remembrances as well as other events that are being held at old battlefield sites in France and Belgium. Church and remembrance services are also being held in many cities all over the world. As well as in millions of schools that are also conducting projects to ensure that children in the 21st Century are aware of sacrifices made by many in WW1.
Newspaper Article – World Service for All Women, from Woman’s Work Today, Published in December 1917, Virginia, USA.
Purpose: This newspaper article indicates how opportunities for woman expanded out of necessity during WWI whilst the men were deployed as soldiers in Europe. The article encourages women to for fill roles in medicine, pharmacy, dentistry and education. This was the beginning of woman being involved in previously male dominated roles and influenced our roles today.
Artwork Source – Painting by Flora Lion titled “Women’s Canteen at Phoenix Works, Bradford” – from the gallery of the Imperial War Museum, London, UK.
Purpose: The painting shows the weariness and emotion expressed by women working at a weapons factory, their stress and fatigue is shown in the painting and it also highlights the importance of civilian women workers during the war and their dual role of working and supporting their families and troops during the war.
In Flanders Fields by John McCrae
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
– Source C
Literacy Source – Poem – In Flanders Fields by John McCrae, published in England, UK, 1915.
Purpose: John McCrae wrote the poem to capture the respect for the soldiers who fought and sacrificed their lives and to show his intense obligation to them. This is a famous poem from the era and is the start of the tradition of the red poppy being used as a symbol of remembrance of the war.
Visual Source – Photograph – “Soldiers and mule wearing gas masks”, taken in 1916, France.
Purpose: This photo was taken to remember an event during the war that had soldiers and a mule wearing gas masks. Poisonous gas was used in war for the first time in WW1, mules were also being used for transportation and logistics being applied. Millions of men and horses died during the war.
Artwork Source – A panel from the Delville Wood memorial – 1918, the Somme, France
Purpose: The purpose of this source is to remember the historic battle of Delville Wood and the South African soldiers that died during this epic battle. This is an example of a memorial to the soldiers of WW1.
– By Chloe Bovim and Gina Wilkinson