Armistice Day 100 Years On: 57 Incredible Photos From World War I

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Pictures of the rudimentary weapons and dramatic battles from the war that claimed 16 million lives. Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Exactly a hundred years ago, in November 1918, people around the world took to the streets in a frenzied celebration—World War I had finally ended.

Known then as the Great War, World War I began in July 1914 and had been longer and deadlier than anyone had predicted. At the outbreak, the optimistic British had predicted that the war would be “over by Christmas.”

Instead, the war lasted over four years and claimed 16 million lives—not counting the victims of ethnic genocides and Spanish flu outbreaks, which had both been exacerbated by the conflict. The end of the exhausting, deadly war couldn't have been more welcome.

The conflict began amid complicated inter-European political tussles, which came to a head in June 1914, when Archduke Franz Ferdinand of the Austro-Hungarian Empire was assassinated in Bosnia.

Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia, and the rest of Europe was eventually embroiled. France, Britain, Russia, and the rest of the Allied forces faced off against the German Empire, Austria-Hungary and the other Central Powers.

The war saw a turning point in 1917 when America began to support the Allied Forces, after they discovered a German plot to persuade Mexico to declare war on the United States. America drafted a massive 2.8 million men into the war effort.

After an exhausting series of military defeats, Germany surrendered. The Central Powers collapsed, and on November 11, 2018, the Armistice was signed, ending the fighting on land, air and sea.

In London, bands played in the streets as church bells rang out over crowds of cheering munitions girls, walking arm in arm. The whole of New York was lit up, illuminating the dancing crowds. In Denver, the news arrived in the dead of night, but clanging bells drew everyone out of their beds to celebrate in the streets.

Celebrations were happening as far away as New Zealand, which had also fought alongside the Allied forces. There, people left work to celebrate with songs and bonfires, burning effigies of the German Kaiser. 

Although Armistice Day is not generally observed in the U.S., events marking this historic milestone will be taking place around the country this month. The U.S. World War One Centennial Commission is holding a series of events in Washington D.C; full details can be found here.

To celebrate Armistice Day, we’ve collected some of the most incredible and heartbreaking images from the First World War. From the rudimentary weapons to the tired, muddy faces, these pictures show the intensity, suffering and comradeship experienced by all sides, both on the battlefield and off.

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French troops under shellfire during the Battle of Verdun. Fought from February 21 to December 18 1916, it was the largest and longest battle of the First World War on the Western Front between the German and French armies. General Photographic Agency/Getty Images
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British soldiers enjoy a jaunt on a British Mark IV tank. Tanks were invented by the British, who used them in combat for the first time in 1916. They were called tanks, as the British tried to shroud their new invention under the guise of water tanks. Hulton Archive/Getty Images
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A man displays his body armor in 1915. Body armor was in an experimental phase during the First World War, and often resembled medieval knights’. Hulton Archive/Getty Images
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French troops advancing under fire during World War I, France, circa 1916. The French had 1.4m casualties during the war. General Photographic Agency/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
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Two American soldiers about to embark for duty, with their pets, a dachshund and a raccoon. Soldiers sometimes took their pets with them to war as companions or mascots intended to lift morale. Hulton Archive/Getty Images
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American cavalry standing upright on horses during training for their part in the First World War. Cavalry had the benefits of speed, especially in carrying messages before the invention of the wireless. They were also more reliable than tanks or planes, which were still in their infancy. Topical Press Agency/Getty Images
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German soldiers uncover horse skeletons in a wood near Slavinski in Poland in 1917. The British Army deployed more than a million horses and mules during the war, despite new developments in aircraft and tanks. Hulton Archive/Getty Images
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U.S. soldiers wearing different styles of gas masks used by Allied and German forces during the First World War in 1917. The new invention of poison gas warfare meant gas masks were a new battle necessity. Mask designs went through many modifications throughout the war years. Hulton Archive/Getty Images
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German Soldiers lying dead in a trench in 1917 during the Battle of Cambrai, Flesquieres, France. Over 2m German soldiers were killed during World War I. Hulton Archive/Getty Images
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British soldiers sitting around a lamp in their trench in 1916. Soldiers often felt a deep sense of comradeship with their unit, fighting for each other as much as for the King. Hulton Archive/Getty Images
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A German cavalryman wearing a gas mask and carrying a long spear or pole - from two different ages of war - in 1917. Topical Press Agency/Getty Images