This month, Remembrance Sunday is also the 100th anniversary of the ending of the First World War and various events are being held throughout the country to mark this special Armistice Day.
In London, following the annual service at the Cenotaph in Whitehall on Nov 11, there will be a march-past of 10,000 people in A Nation’s Thank You – The People’s Procession.
As part of the commemorations, Britain and Germany have called for bells of all kinds to be rung at 12.30 GMT to replicate the outpouring of relief when the guns fell silent. A similar appeal has been made in the United States.
There will also be remembrance services at Westminster Abbey in London, in Glasgow, in Cardiff and in Belfast, giving thanks for peace. Also known as the Great War, this was said to be the war to end all wars. It began on Aug 4, 1914, and ended on Nov 11, 1918.
Most of the fighting took place in Belgium and France and the most famous battles included the two Battles of Ypres, Verdun, the Somme, Passchendaele and Cambrai, while in the Mediterranean there was the campaign at Gallipoli. At sea, the Battle of Jutland in 1916, between the British and German battlefleets, was the only significant clash between the two countries. The estimate of those killed in the war is 10mn.
From the start of the war, ships of the merchant service carried foodstuffs and raw materials as well as troops and their equipment to Britain and to Europe from various parts of the world, while Royal Navy warships and auxiliaries protected them as they battled the growing menace of the German U-boats.
The toll at sea from enemy action was heavy. According to the official figures published in 1919, the Royal Navy lost 254 warships and 815 Auxiliaries, including requisitioned merchant ships, between Aug 4, 1914, and Nov 11, 1918. Of the auxiliaries, the most, 246, were trawlers followed by 244 colliers.
There were 2,479 merchant ships, with a tonnage of 7,759,090grt, and 674 vessels from the fishing fleet lost. The total lives lost among the merchant ship’s crews and passengers totalled 14,287 and the number of fishermen lost was 434. A further 1,885 merchant ships were attacked and damaged for the loss of 592 lives.
The largest passenger ship lost during the war was the Britannic, 48,158grt, which had been ordered by the Oceanic Steam Navigation Co (White Star Line), of Liverpool, from Harland & Wolff Ltd, Belfast, as a sister ship to the Titanic, lost in April, 1912, after hitting an iceberg on her maiden voyage from Southampton to New York.
While being fitted out during the war, the Britannic was completed as a hospital ship. She never sailed for the White Star Line.
With 1,134 people on board, the Britannnic left Southampton on Nov 12, 1916, on her sixth voyage to the Mediterranean and called at Naples to take on coal. The hospital ship was bound for Mudros on the Aegean island of Lemnos, which was the assembly port for injured service personnel in the eastern Mediterranean needing evacuation.