100 years since the start of WW1

Tyne Cot Cemetery

A hundred years ago today British Prime Minister Herbert Asquith declared war on Germany.

In the years from 1914 – 1918 some 16 million people lost their lives in the conflict while another 20 million were injured.

At that time New Zealand had a population of around 1 million.  104,000 men and women left to fight for King and country.  1 in 5 would never return.

Many were slaughtered during failed campaigns at the likes of Gallipoli, Passchendaele and the Somme.  But the locations of total carnage would also help to shape the identity of a young nation.

Most of the soldiers were travelling away from New Zealand for the first time in their lives.  They left seeking adventures but found only the atrocities of war.  However, standing on the battlefields they were also able to compare themselves to those of other nations.  And it was amid the mud and corpses that a sense of separate identity was to form.

The Great War and the destruction that was wrought with it was meant to be “the war to end all wars”.

Sadly as we know from the daily headlines, far too many places on the planet continue to suffer the consequences of ongoing conflicts. And far too often it is those most vulnerable who find themselves in the direct firing line.

So on this historic day where we pay tribute to the millions who lost their lives in the conflict that began a centenary ago, let us also take a moment to hope that peace can one day finally ring out across the world.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old;
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.



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