Flanders commemorates the First World War

Great War Centenary Commemoration

Four years of war, on an international scale: the First World War was a conflict of unprecedented proportions. The Western colonial world powers took up arms on several continents. All over the world, nations and communities were heavily afflicted by violence.

Industrial warfare

Due to the technological advances of the 19th century, the First World War developed into a new type of conflict. This led to a massive mobilisation of the adult male population, while industrial warfare, such as tanks, aircraft and machine guns, was started to be used. Battles involving hundreds of thousands of soldiers became the norm, the likes of which had not been seen since the Napoleonic Wars.

Belgium as the scene of battle

The First World War dragged Belgium into the first armed conflict since its independence in 1830. Once again, a generation was confronted with a foreign occupying force, famine and material destruction. The human toll was immense. On Belgian territory alone, four years of war claimed 600,000 casualties.

Mental toll

The consequences of the First World War were not to be underestimated either. The war clearly took a mental toll, causing a serious blow to the 19th century idea of progress and the faith in the "malleability" of society.

Disrupted communities and destroyed economic prosperity resulted in a precarious peace in the 1920s and 1930s. At the same time, the end of the war fostered the further democratisation of Europe, and the 1919 peace settlement with the League of Nations represented a first step towards sustainable international cooperation.