Every year at 11am on the 11th day of the 11th month, a two-minute silence is observed in remembrance of the day that marked the end of the First World War. This is Armistice Day and most of us mark it by holding the silence and wearing a poppy.
The Remembrance Day services across the country are supported by the Royal British Legion as the official custodian of the formal Remembrance. Each year a special service is held at the Armed Forces Memorial in the National Memorial Arboretum.
As we remember those who gave their lives for our country, we should also remember that First World War was a war of many firsts in human history and of significant innovation. Here are some important firsts that occurred during the conflict:
- The first war to be fought across land, sea and air
This was the first war in human history to be fought on such a huge scale with battles across land, in the sea and for the first time – in the air.
- Shell Shock
Shell shock was recognised for the first time as psychological trauma experienced by servicemen. The condition was not unique to the First World War, but it was the first time it was fully recognised as a medical condition by professionals and the public. The symptoms varied in severity and treatment development was slow, but it was the beginning of recognition of the psychological impacts of battlefield service.
The first time gas as a chemical weapon was used occurred in 1915 when the Germans used it at Ypres. Whilst it was not responsible for many deaths, its effects were incredibly painful, and it remained a powerful psychological threat. After the use of gas during the First World War, international laws were drawn up banning the use of chemical weapons.
The first time the world saw tanks was September 1916 during the Battle of Flers-Courcelette at the Somme. These early tanks were cumbersome and unreliable but made a terrifying impact on those who saw them. They were a common sight on the battlefield by 1918. If you’ve always wanted to experience driving one of these machine beasts, now you can, with a Tank Driving day at www.armourgeddon.co.uk/tank-driving-experience.html
The First World War also became a first for women entering military service. Those women who were desperate to help the war effort began pushing for their own uniformed service in 1914, resulting in the formation of the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps by the end of 1916. The War Office decided eventually that many jobs being done in France could be done by women.
By 1918, the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps had been renamed the Queen Mary’s Army Auxiliary Corps and naval and air force services had also been created – the Women’s Royal Naval Service and the Women’s Royal Air Force. More than 100,000 women joined these services during the war.