IN August it will be 100 years since the start of the First World War, a conflict that not only changed the face of the 20th Century but left an indelible mark on the history of mankind.
It was supposed to be the ‘war to end all wars’ but a century ago the men who marched cheerily to war had little idea of the carnage that was to ensue.
Some said the fighting would be over by Christmas but instead it dragged on for another four long, harrowing years.
On Monday, the Yorkshire Evening Post, in association with the University of Leeds’ Legacies of War project, will begin telling the story of the war through the lives of ordinary people.
Many paid a high price. By the time the Armistice was signed on the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, the war had claimed the lives of 10 million people. Britain lost one in 66 of its population, while Germany lost one in 35 and France one in 28.
The war claimed 9,000 lives in Leeds, alone, and on the first day of the Battle of the Somme in 1916 it is said that every street in the city lost one man from the Leeds Pals.
Such numbers are almost impossible to comprehend. Today, there are no longer any survivors who can talk about the Somme and all the other battles that have become synonymous with the horrors of the trenches.
So why are we commemorating a war that finished more than a lifetime ago? We remember the conflict because it touched so many lives, these were our grandparents and great-grandparents.
It was not just a war fought in sodden trenches in “some corner of a foreign field”, to quote the poet Rupert Brooke. Ordinary civilians were also dragged into the most destructive conflict the world had ever seen, like the 37 “Barnbow Lassies” killed in separate explosions at Yorkshire’s biggest armaments factory while keeping the war effort going.
They may be long gone but they are not forgotten.
WE WANT TO HEAR YOUR STORIES
Today, we launch our First World War centenary coverage telling the story of the war through the lives of people from Yorkshire.
Every day next week and once a week after that we will bring the war to life through a series of stories. We are also publishing a selection of “Letters from the Front” which first appeared a century ago.
We want you to get involved. If you’re a school doing a project about the war, or have a personal family story, then we would like to hear from you.
Email firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
Contact us on Twitter @LeedsNews using the hashtag #YorksWW1