Armistice: 100 Years On
Commemorates the centenary of the First World War armistice
by Claire Law
Suitable for Whole School (Sec)
To explore the events that marked the end of the First World War and reflect upon the value of peace in our world.
Preparation and materials
- You will need the PowerPoint slides that accompany this assembly (Armistice: 100 Years On) and the means to display them.
- You will also need to be wearing a poppy.
- Have available the YouTube video ‘WW1 Trench Warfare from the movie War Horse’ and the means to show it during the assembly. It is 3.19 minutes long and is available at: https://tinyurl.com/hkqvffb
- Optional: you may wish to have poppies available for students to buy as they leave the assembly hall, or later during the school day.
- Show Slide 1.
Comment that many people can be seen wearing poppies or will be seen wearing them over the next few days. Point out the poppy that you are wearing. If appropriate, explain that poppies will be on sale later.
Explain that poppies are worn by millions of people during November each year as a symbol of remembrance and hope. This tradition began after the First World War and enables people to mark Remembrance Day, the day when the First World War officially ended.
- The First World War is also known as World War One or the Great War. It was a global war originating in Europe that lasted from 28 July 1914 to 11 November 1918. At the time, people described the First World War as ‘the war to end all wars’. It is estimated that around 20 million people died as a result of the war.
- One feature of the First World War was the trenches.
Show Slide 2.
Soldiers on both sides lived in semi-permanent trenches, from where they mounted regular attacks. They would leave the trenches and run towards the enemy. The strip of land between the trenches was known as ‘no man’s land’.
- In this clip from the film War Horse, we see Allied soldiers as they prepare for and then enter the terror that was no man’s land.
Show the video ‘WW1 Trench Warfare from the movie War Horse’ from the beginning to 1.26 minutes.
- After four years of warfare, it became clear that Germany and its allies were exhausted. Their armies were defeated and their hungry citizens were beginning to rebel. There was a desire to seek a peace settlement. An agreement was reached and on 11 November 1918, a document called the armistice was signed. It set out the agreement that fighting would cease on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month.
- Show Slide 3.
Here we see a replica of the train carriage in which the armistice was signed by representatives of the Allies and Germany. The terms of the armistice were largely written by Marshal Ferdinand Foch, the Allied Supreme Commander, and the document was signed in Foch’s railway carriage in the Forest of Compiègne, about 37 miles north of Paris. The location was chosen because it was remote and discreet.
The slide also shows an artist’s impression of the moment when the armistice was signed.
- Show Slide 4.
This photograph shows the 1st Battalion, Irish Guards as they heard the news that the war was now over. What a relief it must have been to know that the horrors that they had endured were now in the past.
- Every November, we take time to remember these events. To remember the cost by which peace was achieved and to commit to maintaining peace. This year, 2018, is a special year because it is the centenary of the signing of the armistice.
Time for reflection
Let’s think for a moment about the notion of peace and our commitment to it. Is peace only the absence of warfare and terror, or is it something broader that requires active work to maintain?
Unfortunately, it soon became clear that the First World War was not ‘the war to end all wars’. It was only about 20 years after the end of the First World War before the Second World War began. Even since the Second World War ended in 1945, warfare in our world has continued. There have been over 250 major wars in which over 50 million people have been killed. The dream of peace still seems a long way off.
Let’s consider our own relationships and communities. There is conflict: arguments, tension and hostilities. There are many people who suffer distress and anxiety, many people who do not feel at peace.
True peace is difficult to achieve, but it can be defined as a sense of calmness and harmony, and a freedom from fear. Despite our education and our advances in technology, peace is something that we as a human race still need to work hard at achieving.
Show Slide 5.
The concept of peace was something that Bishop Michael Curry spoke about in the sermon he delivered at the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle in May 2018. His message focused on the power of love to transform our world – to bring about a world of harmony, justice and peace. He said, ‘When love is the way, we will lay down our swords and shields, down by the riverside, to study war no more.’ As we listen to those words again, let’s consider how love can bring about peace in our own situations and relationships: ‘When love is the way, we will lay down our swords and shields, down by the riverside, to study war no more.’
That quotation tells us that love is a way to achieve true peace in our world. Love is an active thing; it requires action. We cannot love others if we ignore them, or fail to support or help them in practical ways. The Bible states that ‘our love should not be only words and talk. No, our love must be real. We must show our love by the things we do.’ (1 John 3.18) In other words, we cannot assume that the signing of the armistice 100 years ago means that we will automatically have peace. For that, each one of us must commit to choosing to live a life of love, which is expressed in our words and our actions.
Let us take a moment to think about what peace means to us. How can we live out a life of love today in our words and our actions?
Pause to allow time for reflection.
We pray today for peace,
Peace in our world, between nations and between individuals.
We pray for peace in our hearts and in our relationships.
We pray for peace in our schools and communities.
Please keep us free from fear and free from anxiety.
We ask for the courage to live a life of love today,
A life in which we actively work for peace through our words and our actions.
We commit this day to you and to peace.
‘The prayer of St Francis (Make me a channel of your peace)’ (Come and Praise, 147)