Saturday, November 12, 2011

Wapenstilstandsdag

Wapenstilstandsdag (Armistice Day) is a public holiday in France and Belgium. Originally held to commemorate the victims of the First World War, it has since become an occasion to remember the victims of all wars past and present.

The holiday is on 11 November, the anniversary of the Armistice with Germany at the end of the First World War in 1918. In Commonwealth countries, this day is known as Remembrance Day, Armistice Day, Veterans Day, or Poppy Day. The latter is a reference to the remembrance poppy, which is commonly worn in the weeks leading up to and on Remembrance Day.

Remembrance poppies at the Menin Gate memorial in Ypres. Source

The armistice between the Allies and Germany was signed after three days of negotiations on board a train parked on a railway siding in the Forest of Compi├Ęgne in northern France. Hoping that a quick peace would quelch the fires of the German Revolution of 1918-1919 - which had already resulted in the abdication of Kaiser Wilhelm II - the German delegation accepted all of the Allied terms. The armistice came into effect at 11 a.m. on the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 1918.

The last soldier of the British Empire to be killed before the ceasefire came into effect died in Ville-sur-Haine, a village near Mons in southwestern Belgium. Private George Lawrence Price and his patrol were pursuing a machine gunner through a row of houses when he was shot in the heart by a sniper as he stepped into the street. He died at 10:58, only two minutes before the fighting officially ended.

George Lawrence Price (1892-1918). Source

The nexus of World War I remembrance in Belgium is Ypres, which I visited and wrote about earlier this year. Just as the remembrance poppy eventually came to symbolise all war victims of the past and present, so have Ypres, its memorials and museums become a testament to the basic horror and futility of war itself. A day in Ypres should be an obligatory part of any trip to Belgium.

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Further reading:
http://anorwegianinbelgium.blogspot.com/2011/04/passchendaele-and-ypres-salient.html
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Remembrance_Day
http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wapenstilstandsdag
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Lawrence_Price
http://www.webmatters.net/monuments/ww1_price.htm

2 comments:

  1. Great post, as always :) Have you ever read the poem "In Flanders Fields"?

    Let's pay Ypres a visit very soon :)

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  2. Thanks, love ^_^

    I have read the poem, and it's in the post I wrote after going to Ypres (http://anorwegianinbelgium.blogspot.com/2011/04/passchendaele-and-ypres-salient.html).

    Yes, by all means, let's! ;)

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