“The Lamps are going out all over Europe . . . we shall not see them again in our lifetime,” wrote Sir Edward Grey, British foreign secretary on August 3, 1914.
Grey’s statement proved more than prophetic, it was recognition that the world would never be the same once the armies of Triple Entente of Britain, France, and Russia confronted the armies of Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Italy on the battlefields. What had happened on battlefields in previous wars would also be changed forever because of advances in technology, unleashing the deadly might of aircraft, armoured tanks, machine guns, chemistry, and submarines.
What Grey and many others lamented in 1914 was that in the decades leading up to the Great War, Europe was experiencing the excitement of Belle Epoque, the Beautiful Era, of new music, literature, art, and culture that had brought peace and prosperity to the world. The hopes and promises of Belle Epoque were extinguished when the first artillery shells exploded over France and Belgium in August 1914.
For four years, the Great War roiled across western and eastern Europe, the Middle East, the Balkans, and Africa. The numbers were staggering. Casualties (killed, missing, prisoners of war) included 22 million: Russia 9 million, Britain 3 million, France 6 million, America 300 K, and 1 million from allies in Japan, Romania, Serbia, Belgium, Greece, Portugal, and Montenegro.
Triple Entente losses were 15 million: Germany 7 million, Austria-Hungary 7 million, 900 K Turkey, and 300 K Bulgaria.
By the time of the Armistice was signed on November 11, 1918, the Russian Romanov monarchy had ended with the assassination of Tsar Nicholas and his family. So had the empires of Austria – Hungary and the Ottomans. In their places Bolshevism rose in Russia, nazism in Germany, and fascism in Italy. The world had forever changed.
The ravages of the Great War touched virtually everyone from aristocratic and privileged families, to the urban middle class and rural impoverished.
The Great War inspired artists, musicians, poets, writers to document the bloodshed and horrors of battlefields: John Singer Sargent’s painting “The Gassed,” Erich Maria Remarque’s novel, “All Quiet on the Western Front,” Rupert Brooke’s poem, “The Soldier”, and Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s history “August 1914.”
A century after the Armistice, authors are still writing books that draw upon the Great War: William Boyd’s “Waiting for Sunrise,” Neal Bascomb’s “The Escape Artists,” and Daniel Mason’s “The Winter Soldier.”
It has been more than 100 years since the onset of the Great War. But for those who heard grandparents, parents, uncles, aunts, cousins, brothers and sisters talk about those times, a lasting memory may be a simple poem they learned in school.
A poem about how quickly poppies grew around graves penned by Dr. John McCrea, a Canadian physician who officiated at the burial of a friend who had fallen in 1915 during the second battle of Ypres, Belgium.
In Flanders fields the poppies grow
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.
To commemorate the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day on November 11 at 11 AM on the lawn at Colton Hall, Veterans for Peace Chapter 26 Monterey, will read the names of the Fallen from Monterey from the Great War, World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan. Following the reading, there will be a presentation “The Art of the Great War” at the Monterey Museum of Art.
*. *. *. *. *
In addition to this travel blog, I write international thrillers, mysteries, and suspense novels.
I’m currently writing a thriller series based in Milan featuring the anti-terrorism police, DIGOS, as they pursue domestic and international terrorists. I travel to Milan every summer for research, to see my Italian and American friends, and to work with my researcher and translator.
If you’d like to receive a free ebook of my first Milan thriller, Thirteen Days in Milan, please sign up on the left side bar. I just need your name and email address.
The second book in the series, No One Sleeps, follows DIGOS agents as they track down a sleeper cell of Muslim terrorists in Milan who have received toxic chemicals from Pakistan to make deadly sarin gas.
You can find my ebooks all digital book sites. Paperbacks of Thirteen Days in Milan and No One Sleeps are available at Amazon and independent bookstores around the world. If they’re not in stock, stores can order from Ingram distributors. You should have your book in 3 or 4 days.
Book 3 in the series, Vesuvius Nights, will be published as an ebook in January. If you’d like to learn more about Italy, travel, and writing, sign up for my email newsletter at my publisher’s web site, RedBrickPress.net or my personal web site jackerickson.com.
I like hearing from readers! Please email me and tell me what you like to read. And please share this site with friends who like to read about travel.