Events to mark centenary of World War I will have to strike the right balance
NEXT year is the centenary of the outbreak of World War I, and there is much to commemorate and learn from a conflict that saw the deaths of more than 16 million people and sparked revolutionary change across the world.
But it will be a strange affair. A balance will have to be struck between remembering the millions who died in the conflict and the natural urge of the victorious nations to celebrate their role in winning the war.
From the mud and the blood of the Somme, where more than 19,000 British soldiers died on the first day alone, to the carnage at Gallipoli, World War I had a decisive impact on all that followed.
It changed the way people thought and lived after 1918 and altered the course of history by facilitating the Russian Revolution and the rise of the Nazis.
I hope that the events to mark the centenary milestones between 2014 and 2018 will err on the side of reflection and take into consideration the effect of the war on ordinary people, regardless of where they come from or what side of the conflict they were on.
World War I was a defining moment in human history and it is right to be proud of the men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice so we could enjoy the freedoms we have today.
But we should also remember the impact of war on individuals and nations – and remember, too, that just one death through conflict is a tragedy.
The 16 to 20 million people estimated to have died as a result of World War I alone is nothing short of a catastrophe.
Next year will provide an opportunity for us to reflect on those dreadful statistics and how humanity still has a long way to go before war truly becomes a thing of the past.