Last Sunday marked one hundred years since the Armistice was signed ending a war which ended the lives of perhaps 16 million people and further ruined the lives of millions more. With little wonder was it subsequently called the 'Great War' - and with a great deal of unfulfilled hope it was referred to as 'The War to End All Wars.'
While the Second World War is rightly remembered for the horrors of the Holocaust, still not enough people are aware that the First World War too was a genocidal war. In the Armenian genocide, the Ottoman Empire literally tried to murder the Armenian, Syriac and Anatolian Greek populations out of existence, and is the sole reason why Armenia is such a small and land-locked country today.
World War One is also seen differently from World War Two in other not so accurate ways too - whereas many people in Britain, particularly I think on the political left, see World War Two as our good war and World War One as our bad war, I personally think that the difference between the two was not so stark.
In both cases, Britain was fighting a just and highly necessary cause against Imperialist Aggression on the Continent, and in both cases Britain was at the same time the Imperialist Oppressor in her own colonies. Nevertheless, the latter in no way negates the fact that what Britain did in both world wars was highly necessary and also courageous.
It was in World War One that the Russian Empire, the French Empire and the British Empire bravely took up arms to defend Serbia and Belgium, respectively, from the Imperialist Aggression of the Central Powers, even though, I would argue, it was not in any of those three countries own interests to do so at that time.
Russia, for example, was at least two years away from completing the modernisation of her army - they did not want to fight then, while Britain only had a small force that had to be urgently expanded from August 1914. I therefore genuinely believe that what Russia and Britain were fighting for was a genuine sense of honour and obligation towards Serbia and Belgium, respectively, against the undeserved aggression by the Central powers.
The ultimate victory of the Western Allies in the war meant that what they were fighting for - the rights of small European Nations against the aggression of big Empires - was exactly the outcome the war; the big Empires broke up, and their subject nations gained their independence.
And with the victory of the Western Allies came the modern progressive ideals that are the foundation stone of the world today - self-determination, as expressed in U.S. President Wilson's fourteen points, and international arbitration in the form of the League of Nations.
For the first time ever, Europe was to be a continent of free and independent nation-states, and not one of arbitrarily expansionist autocratic Empires - and that is arguably the biggest political change that Europe has ever seen since the dawn of its history - and a change much for the better.
Had the Central Powers won the war, the opposite would have happened - Serbia would have been unwillingly annexed by the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the subject peoples of the latter would not have gained their independence, and in the case of Poland, she would have been a rump puppet state, with plans discussed by some in Berlin to deport the Polish population of 'Prussian' Poland into the newly created smaller Poland. Likewise, the three Baltic States would have been under German satellite control, and not the independent Republics that they were in the Interwar period.
Not only did the allied victory bring to an end the old Imperialism that had dominated Europe itself, it also weakened colonial Imperialism on the other continents too - nationalists such as Ho Chi Minh in Vietnam and other across the colonised World saw in President Wilson's ideals hope of their own liberation too, a decisive moment in the development of the anti-colonial struggles of many of these countries, even though independence was only gained after the Second World War.
Tragically, World War One was not the war to end all wars, but due to it being such a decisive turn towards Self-Determination, the Rights of Small Nations, Decolonisation and International Arbitration, the allied victory laid the foundation stone for the great peace that we have seen since 1945, even though Hitler's attempted undoing of all that required an even deadlier war to stop him from doing so.
For that reason, we owe a huge debt to those who sacrificed everything in both World Wars, and should remember that the liberties and justice that we enjoy in this century are down to the suffering and sacrifice that those generations had to endure.