I made a post about this date last year. Read that if you want to understand why it matters, but the short version is that this is kind of our equivalent to your Memorial Day.

What I didn't do last year was give the scale of loss.

Out of a population of just over five million total, nearly a million enlisted, which means that almost every fit man between sixteen and sixty put on a uniform by choice. There was no conscription, not here, not then. It was by choice.

Imagine any given ten of those men. I know you can all picture ten uniformed men. Of the ten, by the end of 1918 two would die. One would be blind. One would go home but be on crutches missing a leg, or cradling the stump where his arm should be. One would have been gassed so badly he coughs up his lungs in chunks. One would be wounded so badly that he spends the rest of his life in a hospital - he might have survived, but he never goes home. One would be incurably insane, muttering to himself in the corner of the room.

The other three would look fine, and be sane enough to function, but not talk about it. Ever.

A slightly over 70% casualty rate, in a tiny country...it changes the dynamic of what we remember. It makes a huge difference to what we teach our children afterwards. And that is why it matters.

Those poor bastards didn't understand the obscenity we had sold them to. They didn't understand the scale of the lie until it was too late.

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of tired, outstripped Five-Nines that dropped behind.

Gas! GAS! Quick, boys!óAn ecstasy of fumbling,
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
And floundíring like a man in fire or lime...
Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.

In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devilís sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,ó
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.

The man who wrote this was an Englishman, Wilfred Owen. He was killed in action on the Western Front on November 4th 1918. His family got the news he was dead on the 11th, just in time for the armistice.