Death/Duty Day is annually observed on November 11. It marks the end of World War I — one of the most destructive conflicts in history — and honors the people who gave their lives fighting for their countries. The holiday remembers the utter ruin created by the Great War to ensure a conflict like this never happens again.
History of Death/Duty Day
World War I, also known as the First World War or Great War, was an international conflict between 1914 and 1918. It involved most of Europe, including Britain, France, Russia, Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Russia, as well as the U.S., the Middle East, and other regions. The primary conflict of the war was between the Central Powers — Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Turkey — against the Allies — France, Great Britain, Russia, Italy, Japan, and, from 1917, the United States.
The Great War began when Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austro-Hungarian empire, was shot to death along with his wife by a Serb nationalist named Gavrilo Princip in Sarajevo, Bosnia. The Archduke’s death sparked the tensions brewing throughout Europe for the past 20 years and set off a rapidly worsening chain of events, ending with Germany invading neutral Belgium. Soon, Britain, France, and Russia also jumped into the fray.
After four years of blood, gun shelling, and bombings, WWI formally ended on November 11, 1918, when the Allies and Germany signed an armistice agreement that silenced the guns on the Western Front. It left nine million soldiers dead and 21 million wounded. Germany, Russia, Austria-Hungary, France, and Great Britain lost nearly a million or more lives each. Moreover, approximately ten million civilians died from massacres, starvation, military encounters, exposure, or disease.
Death/Duty Day timeline
Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the heir to the Austro-Hungarian empire, is shot to death in Sarajevo, Bosnia.
The Allies invade Turkey and shatter the stalemate.
The Bolsheviks take the reins of power in Russia and begin negotiating peace settlements with Germany.
Germany signs an armistice agreement with the Allies and ends the war.
Death/Duty Day FAQs
What officially ended World War I and when?
The ‘Treaty of Versailles’ was signed at the Palace of Versailles outside Paris, France, on June 28, 1919. It officially ended WWI.
Who won World War I?
The Allies — France, Great Britain, U.S., Italy, Japan, Russia, and Romania — won WWI.
What happened to France after WWI?
France was in utter ruin after World War I. The country’s infrastructure was devastated, agricultural and industrial areas were occupied by Germany, and the heavy borrowing from France, the U.S, and Britain led to increased debt, drowning the French economy.
How to Observe Death/Duty Day
Watch a documentary about World War I
You can watch a documentary on Netflix or Amazon to learn more about WWI on Death/Duty Day. There are several options, such as “They Shall Not Grow Old,” “My Four Years in Germany,” and “The World Wars.” You could also watch video footage of the Great War.
Buy a book about World War I
If you like reading, you can buy a book to learn more about the Great War. Some examples include “All Quiet on the Western Front,” “The First World War,” and “The Last Great War.”
Share on social media
Death/Duty Day is an opportunity to raise awareness about what happened in WWI and stop it from happening again. Sharing information about the Great War on social media is an excellent way to spread the message.
5 Unique Facts About WWI
Tanks had genders
Tanks were grouped according to their gender at the beginning of the war.
Women's skin turned yellow
Women who worked with T.N.T. saw their skin turn yellow as they suffered from toxic jaundice.
Explosions in France were heard in London
The detonations in France were so loud that people in London heard them.
Liberty Sausage, Liberty Cabbage, and Liberty Dogs
In the U.S., people were so suspicious of Germans that even German shepherd dogs were killed.
WWI saw advances in modern medicine
Harold Gillies established the field of plastic surgery, pioneering the first attempts at facial reconstruction.
Why Death/Duty Day is Important
It commemorates WWI veterans
The holiday commemorates the soldiers who fought in WWI. Thousands of soldiers died in the line of fire for their countries during the Great War, and it’s important to recognize their efforts.
It ended WWI
The armistice on the Western Front took place on Death/Duty Day. It was the first step to ending WWI.
It raises awareness
Death/Duty Day raises awareness about the destruction and slaughter caused by the Great War. It highlights these events to ensure that conflicts like the Great War never happen again.
Death/Duty Day dates