WWI end

An exhibit in a display at the Tutere Gallery


In August 1914 it seemed like a great adventure to colonials on the other side of the World and soldiers who quickly enlisted were worried about missing out because it could be over by Christmas.

The ideology was simple — the British Empire was the best empire.  The allies were the French empire and the Russian empire.  The bad guys on the other side were the German, Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman empires.

It wasn’t over by Christmas and it was anything but glamorous.  Muddy, lice ridden trenches, clouds of poison gas, cannons of all sizes, barbed wire, suicidal no-man’s lands and machine guns were the reality. It ended after four years, three months with 16 million dead, which included 18,000 NZ servicemen.

The war had its consequences.  The feeling that the suffering and destruction had achieved nothing had to be countered by the rulers, so at the Treaty of Versailles, Germany had to pay substantial reparations and the German empire disappeared — colonies in Africa were given to the victors; NZ got Western Samoa — the Austro-Hungarian empire was broken up and the Ottoman empire became Turkey and the territories of the Middle East; the British got the newly formed Palestine for 30 years.  France got Alsace-Lorraine back from the Germans.  (The Russian empire had exited the scene in 1917 following the communist overthrow; Finland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania became independent, and in 1919, Poland reappeared on the map.)

In Britain, 11 November is known as Armistice Day and in America as Veterans Day, which marks the service of all those who have been in the military.

Although veterans were often despised after the Vietnam war, even if they had been drafted, the popular feeling has turned more positive today with a better expression of what the military is there to do — getting rid of despotic/menacing regimes that care nothing about human rights being the most important, but it also gives servicepeople valuable skills in technology, emergency management and engineering.  In fact the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is heavily involved with civilian infrastructure like creation of waterways, irrigation and ports, and it owns and operates a quarter of America’s hydro-power generation, see below.

US Army Corps of Engineers