Armistice Day 2017 and 2018
The people of Belgium commemorate the end of World War I every year on November 11.
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The armed conflict, which began in 1914, finally ended when the Allies and Germany signed an armistice agreement on November 11, 1918 at Compiègne in northern France. Armistice Day, sometimes referred to as Remembrance Day, is a public holiday in Belgium.
Armistice Day is a national holiday in Belgium. Most government agencies, banks and shops are closed on November 11, although many restaurants, cafes and museums are open for business. As is the case with many other nations that participated in the Great War, the people of Belgium pause to remember the dead and wounded at precisely 11 AM on November 11.
There are a host of sombre ceremonies, religious services and battlefield commemorations that can be attended in Brussels and other Belgian cities. Very few WWI veterans are still alive, but military parades, proud veterans and family members still commemorate the costly battles that plagued the Belgian nation so many years ago.
Visiting war memorials and remembering those who sacrificed so much during World War I is important to the people of Belgium, but Armistice Day also provides an opportunity for family functions and some rest and relaxation. World War I was a horrific experience for the nation of Belgium, but being thankful for the peace and prosperity that the people of Belgium now enjoy is no less important.
World War I
World War I, also known as the Great War, was publicised as the war to end all wars. Ongoing tension between Germany and other European powers led to armed conflict when Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife were assassinated by a Serb nationalist on June 28, 1914. Archduke Ferdinand was the nephew of the Emperor of Austria and apparent heir to the throne. The assassination provided an excuse for the Austro-Hungarian Empire to attack Serbia.
A cascade of events followed the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand. The Austro-Hungarian Empire enjoyed a mutual assistance treaty with Germany while Serbia had a binding treaty with Russia. Russia also had treaties with France and Great Britain. As it turned out, the Austro-Hungarian Empire waited until July 28, 1914 to declare war on Serbia. The delay created an opportunity for many European nations to become embroiled in the burgeoning dispute.
While Russia mobilised, Germany decided to invade neutral Belgium, which had a treaty with Great Britain, in order to attack France. The first major battle of the war was fought in France in September 1914. The battle at Marne, in which French and British troops forced German forces to retreat, ultimately resulted in a stalemate. World War I was characterised by trench warfare and slow attrition of soldiers and equipment. Countless soldiers were killed attempting to cross No Man’s Land to inflict damage on the enemy. A succession of bloody battles and the entrance of many other nations into the war ultimately led to the signing of an armistice on November 11, 1918. It is estimated that 38 million civilians and soldiers were killed and another 20 million wounded during World War I.
Belgium in WWI
Germany declared war against France and Belgium in the early days of August 1914. The invasion of Belgium by German troops led to a heroic defense by Belgian troops under the leadership of King Albert. Nevertheless, the modest Belgian military was unable to ward off the German Onslaught. Belgian forces were forced to retreat, and the city of Antwerp came under German control. Many desperate battles were fought by Belgian and British troops to stall the conquest of Belgium by Germany.
Aside from the military battles and loss of life experienced by the Belgian people, the aftermath of the war imposed hardships that are likely to never be forgotten. All of Europe was inundated with drastic cultural, political and economic changes that imposed many uncertainties and deprivations. To be sure, the Russian Revolution of 1917 led to a historic realignment of political priorities throughout the world. Moreover, the severe reparations imposed on Germany at the end of the war in the Treaty of Versailles are often blamed for the rise of NAZI Germany and World War II.