Special events were held around the world in August to mark the hundredth anniversary of the start of World War I.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper attended a ceremony at the National War Memorial in Ottawa on August 3. He placed a wreath on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier to honour all soldiers who have fought for Canada.
On August 4, many world leaders gathered in Liège, Belgium, to mark the day that Germany invaded Belgium in 1914. Representatives from 83 countries – including the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (Prince William and Kate), and the presidents of France and Germany—attended the ceremonies.
They heard speeches and visited a military cemetery. As well as remembering the war, many leaders spoke about conflicts going on in the world right now, including fighting in the Middle East and in Ukraine.
That night, people in Great Britain were asked to turn their lights out between 10 and 11 p.m., and a special candle-lit service was held at Westminster Abbey, a famous church in London. This marked the hour when Britain—in order to help defend Belgium—declared war on Germany.
On August 5, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, along with Prince Harry, visited the Tower of London to see a special display created by artist Paul Cummins. Cummins has filled the dry moat around the tower with thousands of ceramic poppies.
The Royals each placed a ceramic poppy in the moat. More poppies will be added until there are 888, 246, one for each British and Commonwealth soldier killed during World War I.
(Poppies became a symbol of soldiers who died in the war after they began to bloom in the battlefields and cemeteries of Belgium. They were made famous in the poem “In Flanders Fields” by John McCrae.)
World War I lasted from July 28, 1914, to November 11, 1918. It started as a conflict between two small countries—Austria-Hungary and Serbia—but other countries took sides and joined the fighting.
Great Britain, France and Russia fought on one side. They were known as the Triple Entente, or Allies. The other side, called the Central Powers, included Germany, Austria-Hungary and the Ottoman Empire (now Turkey).
Soon almost every country in Europe was involved, as well as many other nations from around the world, including Canada, the United States, Australia and Japan.
Canada was still a British colony at that time, so it entered the war when Britain did. About 600,000 Canadian men and women took part as soldiers, nurses and chaplains. More than 60,000 Canadians were killed in the war.
In November 1918, Germany—which was losing the war—signed an agreement with the Allies to end the fighting. By then, nine million soldiers and seven million civilians had been killed.
Map of Europe before World War I.
Canadian History Museum: Canada and the First World War.
Reading of In Flanders Fields (and excerpt from For the Fallen).
By Kathleen Tilly
Two important symbols of WWI are included in this article: the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and the poppy. Pick one of these symbols and explain what they represent and why they are important.
Create your own symbol for WWI. What did you pick? What does it represent?
Reading Prompt: Demonstrating Understanding
There is a lot of information in this article, both about WWI and the 100th anniversary of the war. In your own words, explain what you know about WWI. For example, explain who fought on each side and why the war happened in the first place.
What questions do you still have about WWI? How can you get answers to your questions? Pick one question and use books, the Internet and newspapers to find the answer to your question.
Demonstrate understanding of a variety of texts by summarizing important ideas and citing supporting details (OME, Reading: 1.4).
Demonstrate understanding of increasingly complex texts by summarizing important ideas and citing a variety of details that support the main idea (OME, Reading: 1.4).
Language Feature: Em Dash
An em dash is a long dash. Em dashes are used in the following sentences in the article:
“This marked the hour when Britain—in order to help defend Belgium—declared war on Germany.”
“In November 1918, Germany—which was losing the war—signed an agreement with the Allies to end the fighting. By then, nine million soldiers and seven million civilians had been killed.”
“It started as a conflict between two small countries—Austria-Hungary and Serbia—but other countries took sides and joined the fighting.”
How are em dashes used in these sentences? How do they help the reader to better understand the article?