It has been exactly 101 years since the official end of World War I (also known as “The Great War”) was declared. On November 11, 1918, at 11 a.m., four years after the outbreak of the war that began in 1914, the feuding groups reached a cease-fire agreement.
Since then, the 11th of November has been designated as Armistice Day to commemorate the agreement between the Allies and Germany to put an end to hostilities. The deal was signed in the French city of Compiegne, in the north of the country.
The Great War was fought between the Allied Powers, which comprised France, Russia, Britain, and, at one time, the United States, and the Central Powers, which included Germany, Austria-Hungary, the Ottoman Empire, and Bulgaria. The Allied Powers won the war, while the Central Powers lost.
It was the assassination of Austria-Hungarian Emperor Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie on June 28, 1914, by Serbian nationalist Gavrilo Princip that triggered World War I. It was important to Princip and other nationalists that Austria-Hungarian rule over Bosnia and Herzegovina be brought to an end.
The uprising took a global turn, resulting in unparalleled levels of bloodshed and devastation everywhere. During the four-year worldwide conflict, more than 16 million people, consisting of nine million troops and civilians, killed, while another 21 million people were injured.
At the end of World War I, Germany and France – the two countries that sent 80 percent of their male populations between the ages of 15 and 49 into battle – were among the worst hit.
But how did Africa become entangled in a conflict taking place thousands of miles away in Europe?
As noted in a Washington Times story, “The First World War had a significant impact on African colonies because European countries requisitioned their labor and resources.” Historian Bill Nasson of the University of Cape Town explained this in detail.
The end of World War II marked the beginning of the end of German colonial power in Africa, which began with the signing of the Treaty of Versailles. During World War II, almost two million Africans gave their life in the service of Europe.
When fighting for the German colony of Togo during World War I, France in particular resorted to the use of African troops, particularly Senegalese riflemen from the country’s west coast. They also took advantage of Senegalese forces to assault regions such as Gallipoli, which is now part of the Turkish Republic.
In World War I, Europeans utilized Africans in labor units instead of military formations because military involvement was deemed perilous, fuelling suspicions that blacks “might gain thoughts beyond their station,” according to Albert Grundlingh, a World War I historian and professor at the University of Stellenbosch.
At some time, Africa became a vital element of the conflict, despite the fact that it was thousands of miles away from European battlefields. Germany’s Southwest Africa and German East Africa, which included Burundi, Rwanda, and Tanzania, were battled for by South Africa under the British flag in the struggle for today’s Namibia. Men from Nigeria, the Gold Coast (now Ghana), Sierra Leone, the Gambia, Uganda, Nyasaland (Malawi), Rhodesia (Zimbabwe), and Kenya joined the British army to supplement its own.
A memorial to the African soldiers who fought for France during the Battle of the Somme, which took place from July to November 1916 in the town of Longueval, stands at Delville Wood, near the town of Longueval, in their honor.
In the global struggle, Germany was a major factor, particularly in Africa; nevertheless, the armistice required the European country to vacate countries and territories that it had occupied, which dragged on for another two weeks in Africa.
Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck, a German general who had been engaged in a guerilla fight in East Africa against British imperial forces, was the primary architect of the delay.
The local economy was said to have suffered as a result of his enslavement of Africans as his porters, according to reports.
Despite the fact that Lettow-Vorbeck had been forced into Portuguese Mozambique by November 1918, he still had approximately 3,000 troops under his command and was still waging raids into Southern Rhodesia when word of the armistice in Europe reached him.“
“In contrast to the German army in Europe, Vorbeck could consider his own force to be unbeatable, and he made the decision to bring the African war to a close at a moment of his choosing. A story stated that he “formally surrendered to the British in Northern Rhodesia (modern Zambia) on November 25, two weeks after the Armistice in Europe.”