The First World War made an enduring impact on all those who lived through it. It was a war fought on an unprecedented scale with levels of violence exceeding anything previously experienced. While it involved people from around the world it was on the population of Europe that the upheaval of the war had its greatest impact. What started as a ‘little local difficulty’ turned into a war engulfing people from around the world.
It was a war that put an end to the optimistic years at at the beginning of the century when it was felt that the major problems facing humanity were on their way to being solved. It was also a war that ushered in new problems and laid the foundation for future wars.
No other event had touched the lives of Europeans in so many profound and far-reaching ways. It is therefore not surprising that such an event would also be remembered in many different ways; that these memories would be used for many different reasons to support different and sometimes opposing points of view or that today the causes, effect and significance of that war continue to be hotly contested.
Today only a very few of those who lived through that war are alive, yet a ceremony which owes its origins in a last minute (and not very popular) suggestion is being actively expanded, popularised and every effort being made to involve young people. Few ask what purpose this grand expansion actualy serves. As long ago at the 1920s, a Member of Parliament noted that ‘There is already a generation of young men who never knew the war except as a depressing topic of conversation. Those to whom this annual commemoration has any meaning are growing fewer and fewer'.