compassion, collaboration & cooperation iN transistion
BUT don't celebrate a futile conflict that blights us
to this day - on the 99th anniversary of the Great War
Today is the 99th anniversary of the decision by the British
Government to declare war on Germany. A conflict between France
and Russia on one side and Germany and Austria on the other at
once, because of the British Empire, went global. The Great War
The countdown to its centenary is under way, with an announcement
due tomorrow from Maria Miller, the Culture Secretary, about how
Britain will mark the event. Squadrons of historians**, of varying
degrees of rigour, have been enlisted to advise her.
Even though the war has virtually passed out of living memory, the
scale of the human losses it caused continues to shock each
generation that learns of them – which partly explains why the acts
of remembrance each November remain so well observed, and so
An estimated 1.15 million men from the British Empire died,
887,000 from the United Kingdom alone. About two million
Russians and almost 1.4 million French were killed too. On the
other side, over two million Germans lost their lives, as did 1.1
million from Austria-Hungary and 770,000 from the Ottoman
That human devastation alone is ample reason to commemorate the
centenary. But there is no cause for celebration. We should, instead,
consider the terrible consequences of Britain’s decision to defend
Belgian neutrality in August 1914 and to offer support to France
against a German assault.
The result of our intervention was not just all those dead; indeed, not
just all those hundreds of thousands of bereaved parents, widows and
orphaned children. Nor was it just whole communities with the heart
torn out, and the flower of British youth largely destroyed.
Britain’s decision to fight also helped create a massive, four-year
conflict that wrecked the old order in Europe, fomented revolution
and destroyed much of the prosperity that had been the great
achievement of the preceding half-century. And it created the
conditions for Nazism and Stalinism, with all they entailed.
The Second World War was an even more savage extension of the
First. And the Cold War that followed it was an inevitable consequence
of a clash of ideologies that stemmed from decisions taken in 1914.
It is no exaggeration that almost all the rest of the 20th Century
was blighted by the effects of the Great War.
And, worst of all, it need not have happened.
** Some say that there are as many versions of history as there are historians
does that mean that there are now squadrons of versions of history which this
government is willing to subscribe to in order to placate nay control their voters?
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