Rome remembers the Armistice

Centenary of the end of world war one is marked in Rome this November.

At the 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, the so-called Great War ended. An armistice was signed in a railroad car in France outside Compiégne. A week earlier on 4 November, the Austro-Hungarian empire had agreed to the armistice of Villa Giusti, and the war came to an end in Italy.

Germany, which had its own trouble with social unrest at home, agreed to this armistice on 11 November, ending the war in victory for the Allies, but at an enormous cost. The conflict left about nine million military dead and 10 million civilians. Overall casualties on both sides (the Allies of the British Empire, France, Italy, Russia until it withdrew at the end of 1917 and the USA from April 1917 onwards) and the Central Powers (Germany, Austrian-Hungary and the Ottoman Empire) are estimated to have been about 40 million. The war spread beyond the main area of conflict in Europe, beyond those “Flanders Fields”, in the poem often read at Armistice Day. There are war cemeteries not only in Europe but also in Africa, the Middle East and Asia.

This year is of particular significance as the end of a four-year period of reflection on the war. The centenary is being marked in many places in Britain, in Europe, in the rest of the world. There will events and services over the weekend of 3 and 4 November in north Italy. Here in Rome on 9 November, many will gather at the Rome War Cemetery, Via Nicola Zabaglia 50, lovingly tended by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, at 10.45 for a service of remembrance attended by many churches and faith communities in the city, as well as those representing the embassies and armed services of countries involved in the conflict.

Some churches will also be marking the centenary of the ending of the war with prayers for peace and a remembrance of the departed on the morning of 11 November. A resource titled Silence … we will remember them has been produced and is available through Churches Together in Rome (contact its Chair, Rev. Dr. Tim Macquiban on tmacquiban@gmail.com for copies) or on the Remembrance 100 website.

Churches Together in Rome, in association with The New Chamber Singers choir, has organised a presentation: Remembrance Day in words and music: Lest we Forget – reflecting on themes from the war and the hopes for peace which emerged – at All Saints' Church, Via del Babuino 153, at 18.00 on 11 November.

Tim Macquiban writes: “I once lodged in a house in Cambridge where Edith Cavell had lived for a short time. She was a Christian nurse who served as a matron in enemy-occupied Belgium during the First World War. Edith was executed in 1915 for enabling around 200 Allied soldiers to escape to neutral territory. The night before her execution she said: “Standing as I do in view of God and Eternity, I realise that patriotism is not enough. I must have no hatred or bitterness towards anyone.”
By Rev. Dr. Tim Macquiban