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

Pictures of the rudimentary weapons and dramatic battles from the war that claimed 16 million lives.
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Armistice Day 100 Years On: 57 Incredible Photos From World War I 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.

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