World War I Centenary – A United Europe?


The 1917 Battle of Passchendaele, otherwise known as the ‘Battle of Mud’became one of the most infamous battles during World War I. During the battles close to 12 000 people died, and Ypres (the site of the battle) turned into a sinking mud swamp after the heavy rains,and many of the men sunk into the grounds.

Commemorating the century old war, the soldiers buried at Tyne Cot, over 8 000 of whom have not been identified, are having their tombs re-inscribed in anticipation of the number of visitors expected for the commemoration ceremony. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission is leading the preparations to commemorate the countless deaths of World War I when human life was not valuable. Commemorating the remembrance of the war will be undertaken in every country, with each country making its own plans. So far Belgium, Australia, France, Britain and German are making plans to mark off the remembrance of the war.

Australia and Britain have made plans to spend close to US$80 million, with France having spent US$45 million on a Museum of the Great War in Meaux Paris. Germany on the other hand has been slow with its preparations and this is due in part to World War II baring a bigger impact and area of focus than the First World War. The difficulty the Commonwealth War Graves Commission is facing is getting all the European countries to prepare a shared goal for the WWI remembrance, the Spiegel Online International reports.

By realizing a commemorable World War I shared vision, it becomes a chance for all European countries to show that they are united and share a common vision for the future. However, the 2009 Euro-crisis which has devastated countries’ spending power (to say the least) has resulted in each country fighting for the best interest of its citizens. Thus, the envisioned solidarity pact through the commemoration has put countries under strain. Another factor is due to the new generation who do not link their experiences with the war, thus finding a common cause further becomes difficult.

Each country’s rendition of the war is seemingly different, for example France’s experience was much more traumatic as close to 1.5 million people died compared to Britain’s death count (whose loss was not as severe). Whereas German is mostly inclined to its responsibilities of the Second World War. So far however, none of the countries dispute the opportunity for the centenary as being both a unifier and a remembrance. The event will beat St. Symphorien Military Cemetery in Mons, Belgium.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE