Liège 2014 remembering the Great War

World War One was the most catastrophic conflict the world had ever seen. Around 17 million soldiers and civilians and even more millions of animals (too often much forgotten) were killed between 1914 and 1918.

Europe has grown accustomed to peace in its own regions. Great-Brittain may have seen the Falklands war and West Europe may have found many families threatened in the Yugoslavian conflict. Notwithstanding the ethnic conflicts in the Balkans, 1991-2001, and Russia’s current involvement in Ukraine, Europe has seen nearly 70 years of peace; hence the revulsion, by generations accustomed to peace, to those examples of conflict.

We ought to stand still to remember and to reflect. We also should try to find ways to avoid such terror and in-human situations. Too much we still see today atrocities and human rights not respected by too many groups who kill in the name of something or someone, without shame.

Last week the power of reconciliation underlined the day of commemorations to mark the 100-year anniversary of many countries entering the first world war.

File:Maginot Fortification Diagram.JPG

Drawing showing the defense guns at Liege – part of the pre-World War I Belgian defensive fortification system – “Popular Mechanics” Magazine October 1914

Liège,  on the river Meuse , just 30 miles from the German border, was the first battle of a conflict, were in the city alone, more than 1,000 people lost their lives in the first few shocking days of fighting.

The small very young country never had imagined that it would be once more a battleground for many nations. They also did not imagine it could take on such an amount of time and could have such force to destroy so many lives of people on the front but also far away from the battle fields.

On Monday August the 4th 2014, 12 cannons, one for each of the 12 forts which, 100 years ago, were about to face the full force of Germany’s mighty second army, were fired as King Philippe/Filip of Belgium paid tribute to the “courage and dignity” of those fighting, but spoke also of the “cruelty and barbarism” of the war, and the challenge of keeping peace.

Belgium World War I Commemoration

The Belgian flag next to the European Union Stars of unity, with underneath the flags of the nations that fought in the first world war. Photograph: Virginia Mayo/AP

French President François Hollande greeting Germany's President Joachim Gauck at the commemoration.

Liège. – French President François Hollande greeting Germany’s President Joachim Gauck at the commemoration. Photograph: John Thys/AFP/Getty

In a simple, intimate ceremony focusing as much on the future as the past, beneath the imposing 75-metre-high column of the Allied Memorial at Cointe, on the outskirts of town, the city and the country, as host to foreign dignitaries including King Felipe VI of Spain, Presidents François Hollande of France, Joachim Gauck of Germany and presidents from Ireland, Austria and the European Commission, General Philip M. Breedlove, NATO Supreme Allied Commander Europe, the Belgian king said:

“Peaceful Europe, unified Europe, democratic Europe. Peace is what our grandparents longed for,”

The Belgians were pleased that England also was also presented by members of the British Royal Family. The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry spent the day paying their respects and attending several events marking the centenary of the outbreak of the war. they first arrived at L’Abbaye Saint-Laurent, a military hospital, where they were received by His Majesty King Philippe and Queen Mathilde of Belgium.

Dignitaries from around the world at Liège 1914 memorial

Dignitaries from around the world: Prince William and Kate took their seats on the stage at Liege alongside (L-R, seated) France’s President Francois Hollande, Queen Mathilde and King Philippe of Belgium, and German President Joachim Gauck

The British ambassador in Brussels, Jonathan Brenton also showed his delight and said:

‘These commemorations remind us of the important bond between our two countries and the sacrifices we shared together 100 years ago. It is vital that younger generations learn the lessons of the war by visiting memorials. So by paying tribute to the fallen, Their Royal Highnesses will show the way for younger generations to come.’

The Belgian king pointed out how important such commemoration is. He said it was vital: not just to remember the courage of those who fought, but to be reminded that “peace is not only the absence of war … It has to be based on a shared project”.

Hollande picked up the theme, paying handsome tribute to France’s smaller neighbour, which was “spared nothing” of the horrors of the Great War and whose staunch defence – in particular of Liège, whose forts only succumbed after 11 days of horrendous bombardment – gave Paris precious time to bolster its own defences.

For the first time Germany gave excuses to the Belgians in public. President Gauck  spoke of his country’s “completely unjustified” invasion of Belgium; its deluded belief that its actions were morally and religiously justified; the “triumph of extreme nationalism over empathy, and of propaganda that knew no bounds”.

All our nations had to face “misfortune, misery, crippling injury and death” and we only can hope that this disaster which came over Belgium but infected the whole of Europe and the rest of the world, that it “taught us a terrible lesson”.

“Let us show, not only through our commemoration and remembrance, but also through our actions in the present and the future, that we have truly learned that lesson.”

Gauck said.

Belgium World War I Commemoration

Heads of State and royals attend a commemoration ceremony to mark the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of World War I at the Cointe Allies’ Memorial in Liege, Belgium on Monday, Aug. 4, 2014. The ceremony pays homage to the victims of the war, both soldiers and civilians, from Belgium and abroad, who lost their lives on Belgian soil. – PHOTO: AP

Serbian President Tomislav Nikolic expressed regret his regret in Liège over the fact that during the ceremony, speakers failed to mention Serbia, Montenegro or Russia, adding that he was deprived of a thoroughly completed ceremony to mark the beginning of the war that should have never been allowed to happen and which should serve as a pointer that war should never be allowed to happen again. {Read More at inserbia.info/today/2014/08/nikolic-serbia-was-always-on-the-right-side}

Philip Hammond, the foreign secretary, who was in Liège, issued the statement:

In services today in Liege, Glasgow and London, I – and my ministerial colleagues – remember the men and women of world war one. They worked and fought together, regardless of nationality, beliefs or upbringing in a war which reached the farthest corners of the globe. We owe a great deal to them. They showed immense courage and made great sacrifices. Today, we remember.

Prince William, representing, with the Duchess of Cambridge, the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh, also spoke of lessons learned, and of the need to remain vigilant.

In Europe, the transition from war to lasting peace has taken time. Edith Cavell was a British nurse who saved soldiers from each side. On the night before she faced a German firing squad, she said: “I must have no hatred or bitterness towards anyone.”

It took another terrible war to learn the truth of her words, and even today we continue to learn that lesson. The events in Ukraine testify to the fact that instability continues to stalk our continent.

The peace that we here enjoy together as allies and partners does not simply mean no more bloodshed – it means something deeper than that. The fact that the presidents of Germany and Austria are here today, and that other nations – then enemies – are here too, bears testimony to the power of reconciliation.

he said, but

“the fact that the presidents of Germany and Austria are here today, and that other nations – then enemies – are here too, bears testimony to the power of reconciliation.

“Not only is war between us unthinkable, but former adversaries have worked together for three generations to spread and entrench democracy, prosperity and the rule of law across Europe. We salute those who died to give us our freedom. We will remember them.”

Prince William praised Belgium and its people

“whose resistance was as gallant as their suffering was great”.

Cointe Inter-Allied Memorial at Liege

In a simple, intimate ceremony focusing as much on the future as the past, beneath the imposing 75-metre-high column of the Allied Memorial at Cointe, on the outskirts of town Liège, the city and the country, together with their former foes and their present friends, paid their respects.

War memorial liege

Going high into the sky, to be seen from far away as a pile standing onto the sacred ground for those who died in the battles of insanity.

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Preceding article: August 4, 1914 to be remembered

Next: Mons 2014 remembering the Great War

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Find also to read:

  1. 1914 – 2014 preparations
  2. 100° birthday of war and war tourism
  3. Flames of Louvain – Leuven 1914 an attempt to destroy a civilisation
  4. All the war-propaganda, all the screaming and lies and hatred, comes invariably from people who are not fighting… George Orwell
  5. 11 November, a day to remember #1 Until Industrialisation
  6. 11 November, a day to remember #2 From the Industrialisation
  7. A good team to guaranty a musical about the First World War
  8. Juncker warns for possible new war
  9. Friendship and Offer for the cause of democracy

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Additional literature:

Nikolic: Serbia was always on the right side
Serbia has drawn the lesson that it can no longer have enemies among major countries, especially not among those with economies that can provide substantial assistance, the president said. Serbia has no place in wars any longer, Nikolic said.

Lest We Forget by Trevor Plumbly
A great many of the young men from around the Empire rallied to the call of ‘The Mother Country’, some obviously out of a sense of British inherited patriotism; to others, it seems, it was a sort of adventure that would all be over in a few months. History is built and relayed on perception as well as fact, and it labelled WWI as ‘The Great War’ and somewhat cynically ‘The War to End All Wars’.
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It was probably better described as ‘The War to Start All Wars’. For the first time in English history the entire nation was involved; up to that point, the average man and woman would have known or cared little for empire building in foreign parts, but this was the big one and it was right on the country’s doorstep and the previously slightly socially outcast soldiers and sailors became ‘our boys’.
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Sadly, the ‘War to End All Wars’ was just the prelude for WWII, Korea, Vietnam and so on right up to the present.

Heroes and Villains of World War One

The only credible shared experience is that both Muslim and non-Muslim soldiers were sent off by the industrial, political and military establishment to die in vast numbers for imperial objectives, the fruits of which would never have been enjoyed by the ordinary soldier or their family and nor the society at large.

In a sense the ordinary foot soldiers were victims in this war.

The real villains were the likes of Lloyd George, Kitchener, Curzon and Balfour who sent millions to die in a war that was to secure Britain’s imperial position.
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In the aftermath of World War One, when Pickthall argued that Britain had no place to decide the fate of the Ottoman Khilafat – he was again accused of having ‘Pan-Islamic and anti-British’ aims and condemned for his ‘vehement denunciations of Lord Curzon and of British policy, and constant glorification of the Turk’.

 

  • Belgium, France, Germany unite for war remembrance (usnews.com)
    During the morning ceremonies at the allied memorial in Liege many leaders, including French President Francois Hollande, insisted that European nations have to act more forceful in conflicts from Ukraine to Iraq and Gaza.”We cannot remain neutral,” Hollande said. “We have an obligation to react and it is Europe which must take on these responsibilities.”

    He called on the same nations who were enemies then to stand together now. Over four years which ended with the Nov. 11, 1918 armistice, the German and Austro-Hungarian empires faced Britain, France, Russia and, later, the United States.

  • World leaders commemorate WWI outbreak (rappler.com)
    The conflict “was the most cataclysmic event in human history,” Abbott said, “and arguably gave rise to communism, to Nazism, to World War II and the Cold War”.
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    “Here on the continent of Europe we saw not the war to end all wars, but the precursor to another desperate and violent conflict just two decades later,” Cameron said.”We should never fail to cherish the peace between these nations and never underestimate the patient work it has taken to build that peace.”
  • First World War Centenary: Duke and Duchess of Cambridge mark outbreak of the Great War in Belgium (telegraph.co.uk)

    Germany invaded neutral Belgium on August 4, 1914 as part of a planned attack on France. Britain declared war later that day.

    Over the next four years, until the armistice was signed on November 11, 1918, millions of lives were lost, including 750,000 British and Commonwealth soldiers, in what was the bloodiest conflict the world had known.
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    As part of a national day of commemoration, events marking the anniversary of the start of the Great War are being held in London, Glasgow and Belgium – starting a four-year Government-led programme of remembrance.

    The royal couple were welcomed to Belgium today by the country’s King Philippe and Queen Mathilde ahead of the ceremony at Cointe.

    Kate wore a cream coat dress with pleated skirt and Peter Pan collar and a pale hat and took her seat between French president Francois Hollande and husband William, who wore the Queen’s golden and diamond jubilee medals.

  • WW1 remembered: first world war commemorations – live (theguardian.com)
  • World War One Centenary: Britain Remembers (news.sky.com)
    Across the Channel, the Prince of Wales, dressed in the uniform of a British admiral of the fleet, attended a Service of Remembrance at Glasgow Cathedral where the 1,400 invited guests included representatives of Commonwealth countries, senior military figures and charities.He was joined by Prime Minister David Cameron, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, Labour leader Ed Miliband and Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond, who all laid wreaths at the Cenotaph in George Square.

    Speaking outside Glasgow Cathedral, Mr Cameron said the war “profoundly changed our world”.

  • Revealed: The 1914 Glasgow Green peace rally against World War I that was ignored by the press but still attracted 5000 protesters (dailyrecord.co.uk)
    Thousands of Scots voiced their horror at the outbreak of World War I 100 years ago today during one of the country’s biggest peace protests.A historian has uncovered this forgotten piece of Scottish history, which was boycotted by the press in 1914.

    Many newspapers at the time chose to ignore the event at Glasgow Green on August 9, 1914, which saw 5000 men, women and children protest against the war which had broken out five days before.

    Organised by left wing Independent Labour Party, speakers at the protest predicted the unprecedented carnage of the Western Front with eerie accuracy.

    A report in the ILP’s news sheet Forward said: “It was impossible to imagine the misery which would result from this war. This misery would fall on those in no way responsible for the war.”

  • Folkestone 1914 & 2014 – Time Bleeds: Stories From The Great War Part 9 (comestepbackintime.wordpress.com)
    Monday 4th August, 2014, marked the Centenary of the outbreak of World War One. A hundred years ago the coastal town of Folkestone became one of Britain’s most important front-line locations. A gateway to France and the Western Front, eight million troops passing through there during the war.
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    Time Bleeds is an experimental documentary inspired by real-life wartime events in Folkestone and the aim of the project was to reconnect its participants with their own World War One heritage. Samuel also drew inspiration from contemporary works such as ‘The War Game’ (1965) by Peter Watkins and ‘Self Made’ (2010) by Gillian WearingTime Bleeds is a collection of interwoven stories drawn from either personal archives or local public records and explores the questions:  “What if we forget?”; “What happens if these stories are lost forever?” and “What would happen if 1914 Folkestone became Folkestone in 2013 – would time bleed?”
  • Former enemies unite for World War I commemoration (thestate.com)
    On Monday, from Glasgow, Scotland to Liege and the small Saint-Symphorien in southern Belgium, leaders of the former enemies Belgium, France, Britain and Germany stood together in a spirit of reconciliation to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the start of conflict that became known as The Great War.
  • to end all wars (metafilter.com)
    We will be asked to do a lot of commemorating over these next four and a half years, but whom and what should we commemorate, and in what spirit? Today most people would surely agree that the war of 1914-1918 was not fought for the lofty motives that each side claimed, and that we all would be better off if it had not been fought at all. Before he died, Harry Patch, the last surviving British veteran of the war, said it best: “It was not worth even one life.” Yet all the traditional ways we remember wars make little space for this feeling….Of course we should remember the dead, especially those whose lives were tragically cut short in their youth. But there is a vast difference between honouring the memory of a family member and honouring the cause for which he died. The customary ways of looking back on war too easily allow us to confuse the two: military cemeteries with the gravestones in ranks like soldiers on parade, parades themselves, statues (which are almost invariably of generals), and war museums and their exhibits of tanks, planes, machine guns, artillery pieces and other technology for meting out death. Let us remember the dead, yes, in these years ahead, but let us also remember the men and women who recognised the war for the madness it was and did all they could to stop it…
  • To remember the First World War we need lively debate as well as silent tributes (newstatesman.com)
    It takes something significant to bring the noisy and fast-moving world we live in today to a silent stop. We live in an age of now, all leading frenetic lives with constant demands on our time. Rarely do we pause to reflect on events that took place long before our parents or grandparents were born.
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    Anniversaries like this are essentially the closest thing our society ever has to a national history lesson. Not one where governments or politicians should hand down official judgements on events from 100 years ago, but one where we can each explore this traumatic chapter in our national story in an inclusive and democratic way. There were 16,000 towns and villages across Britain in 1914, but only 40 of them would reach 1918 without having lost someone in the conflict. It means each community has its own story to tell.

 

About Marcus Ampe

Retired dancer, choreographer, choreologist Founder of the Dance impresario office and archive: Danscontact-Dansarchief plus the Association for Bible scholars, the Lifestyle magazines "Stepping Toes" and "From Guestwriters" and creator of the site "Messiah for all". - Gepensioneerd danser, choreograaf, choreoloog. Stichter van Danscontact-Dansarchief plus van de Vereniging voor Bijbelvorsers, de Lifestyle magazines "Stepping Toes" en "From Guestwriters" en maker van de site "Messiah for all".
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