“The Torch Be Yours To Hold It High”…

wwi.jpeg

It was the War To End All Wars. World War I officially came to a close on June 28, 1919 when the Treaty of Versailles was signed, but it was seven months earlier on November 11th that a broken and defeated Germany requested the armistice that brought an end to the gruesome bloodshed that redefined the rules of warfare for all of time. It was the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918 when the Allies signed an armistice with Germany in allied leader Ferdinand Foch's railway carriage in the remote Forest of Compiègne, north of Paris.  

World War I saw the rise of automatic weapons, tanks, toxic gases, and for the first time in history, warfare in the air as planes and zeppelins were deployed on missions of destruction. Terms like “Shell Shock” and “Trench warfare” came into existence, and with them, the disturbing effects of disease and ongoing trauma that they carry. Nearly 10 million soldiers died in the First World War, soldiers from the sixteen nations involved in the conflict. Civilian losses in Europe reached nearly 9 million during the widespread destruction.

In 1915, from a battlefield near Ypres, Belgium, Canadian surgeon John McCrae penned the words to “In Flanders Field,” a poem that would establish the red poppy as a symbol of veterans, living and dead, over the generations.

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.