'The Great War' involved the mobilisation of 70 million soldiers worldwide. It produced images of such pervasive horror on the Western Front that it defined warfare in human memory long into the twentieth century. The war also left a grim legacy. Thirteen million people died, nine million of them combatants. Over one-third of those who died were 'missing', having no known graves. The war changed the world irrevocably. It marked the birth of the modern era, in attitudes, social relations, art and culture. Old empires disintegrated and new nations emerged in the maelstrom of the war and its aftermath. The peace settlements reshaped national boundaries, leaving tensions and rivalries between nation states and people that resonate to the present day. In just over a decade, the victory of 1918 was eroded by the apparent failure of the Versailles peace settlement, the rise of Nazism and the approach of the Second World War.
Scholars continue to explore and challenge many of the assumptions and common perceptions surrounding the conflict, from its origins and causes, to the responsibility for its conduct, the reasons for Allied victory over the Central Powers, and the consequences and long-term outcomes of that victory. The chapters in this book had their origins in an international conference, 1918 Year of Victory, convened by the Australian War Memorial in Canberra in November 2008 to mark the ninetieth anniversary of the end of the Great War. First World War scholars from a number of nations, many of them renowned specialists in their field, gathered to present their research findings and to share their insights into issues surrounding the ending of the Great War, its memory and continuing impact. The presentations were lively, authoritative and wide-ranging, spanning the themes of war strategy and planning; the problems of raising, training and maintaining armies in the field; developments in technology and weapons systems; the role of command; the evolution of tactics and the use of combined arms; the development of war economies through control of industrial and agricultural production; and the exploitation of human and material resources in war on the home front, on land, at sea and in the air. This highly readable book is a collection of these presentations.
Ashley Ekins is Head of the Military History Section at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra. He specialises in the history of World War One and the Vietnam War and has written widely on these conflicts and on the role of Australian soldiers in the Great War.