How do you remember a war that destroyed four empires, killed 18 million people and left tens of millions of other lives irreparably broken?
As the world marks the centenary of a conflict that left no corner of the planet untouched, this unique anthology (originally published as a daily series in The Independent, The Independent on Sunday and i) attempts to make sense of an incomprehensibly huge chapter in human history by distilling it to a mere 100 “moments”: episodes, big or small, described in many cases through the words of those who were there, that in one way or another capture a sense of what it was like to be caught up in the catastrophe of the First World War.
Our chosen moments are, inevitably, just a few drops in an ocean of millions of comparable stories of individual tragedy and heroism. We hope, however, that they may help readers to imagine what it must have felt like to live through those terrible years. Our chronological selection tells the story of a world-changing cataclysm from many different perspectives: military and civilian, male and female, old and young. Many different nationalities are represented. Even the role of animals in the war is touched on.
The journey from the first moment to the last is sometimes harrowing, often heart-breaking, but always worthwhile. No book can come near to capturing the full intensity of what it meant to be caught up in the catastrophe of the First World War. But the least we can do, 100 years on from the conflict’s outbreak, is to try to imagine what it was like. We hope that this collection will help our readers to do so.