Armistice comes from the Latin word ‘sistere’, which means ‘to come to a stand’ or ‘to cause to stand or stop’. And ‘arma’, which means weapons. Therefore the literal translation is a cessation of arms.
The armistice we commemorate is the ceasefire ending hostilities between the Allies and Germany on the 11th of November 1918. It wasn’t the end of WW1 but rather an agreement to stop the fighting on the Western Front while the leaders worked out the terms of a permanent peace.
This year will be the first in living memory when we won’t hear the voice of H.M. The Queen, but rather it will be the voice of our new king we will listen to. As King Charles served in the RAF and the Royal Navy, he will speak with an authority the late Queen didn’t have.
Having served in HM Armed Forces myself, I find myself reflecting on the sacrifice given by so many over the 20th and 21st centuries as our armed forces battled with so many enemies that did their level best to obliterate us. The horror of it was brought home to me personally when fighting terrorism in Northern Ireland. During a time when so-called political prisoners went on hunger strikes and brought about riots in The Maze Prison in Belfast. In 1982 the IRA bombed a bandstand of musicians and members of horse guards who were parading at the time in Hyde Park and Regent Park. The band were colleagues of The Green Jackets. 11 died that day. Four soldiers of the Blues and Royals and seven bandsmen. It is those men more than any others that I remember each year as I was a bandsman. I learned later our regiment was scheduled to play that day. However, our assignment was switched last minute. I remember their sacrifice, filled with gratitude that it wasn’t me.
I will never fully understand war. To me, it is futile. No war has ever led to anything good. It devastates the landscape and the number of deaths every war produces. Not to mention the effect on the families of those killed. They are also blighted because the cost of freedom has been so high.
Up to 40,000,000 in WW1, 5,000,000 to 9,000,000 in the Russian Civil War, 8,000,000 to 11,000,000 in the Chinese Civil War, and 20,000,000 to 25,000,000 during the second sino-Japanese war. Then there were another 85,000,000 killed in WWII, another 2,000,000 during the Partition of India and up to 4,500,000 in the Korean War and a similar number in the Vietnam War. 3,000,000 each during the Nigerian Civil War and Bangladesh Liberation War. 2,500,000 during the Afghanistan conflict. 2,000,000 in the Sudanese Civil War. Up to 5,400,000 during the second Congo War.
Those are just the wars where the death toll is 2,000,000 or more. That is a total of almost 197,000,000 million human souls, with at least twice as many affected families, communities, and countries ravaged by the futility of war upon war.
We only tend to focus from a UK or European perspective. We are all citizens of the world. We are all brothers and sisters. How many millions more will count in the annals of history before we learn the lesson that war doesn’t solve anything? It has a devastating effect both in lives lost and countries in ruins. Physically, financially and emotionally, PTSD is in danger of becoming an epidemic. With the zombie, survivors wandering around in our communities as a symbol of the shame we are responsible for.
May our children or our children’s children one day live in a time when armistices are a thing of the past as the world moves into an era of unprecedented peace. That is my hope for this Armistice Day.