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The First World War
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Jerry_BOffline
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PostPosted: 21-08-2005 20:05    Post subject: Reply with quote

But isn't that imposing our current world on one from nearly 100 years ago? The point of the article, as far as I can tell, is to discuss the attitudes of the time WRT the war being part of the End Times.
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tedmoleOffline
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PostPosted: 21-08-2005 23:46    Post subject: Reply with quote

But surely the very fact that we live (and in this case write) in our current age and culture means that we cannot truly objectively assess the percussions of any past event without some sense of 'local colourr judgement. There is no such thing as inate objectivity - we just have to try and be stringent with ourselves and make sure that our expected hypothesis doesn't mean that we ignore contradictory information.

I would have thought that was a bit needless to state in this case, as this was described (erroneously or not) as "the War to end all wars" at the time, so the apocalyptic overtones were surely inherent from as early as 1914/15, as opposed to it simply being a modern spin of association?
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Jerry_BOffline
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PostPosted: 22-08-2005 08:10    Post subject: Reply with quote

What I meant was whether there's any evidence from the time that people thought that the war was part of the End Times. That would cut out any need for us to imply some of our contemporary thinking about it. 'The War To End All Wars' seems to have different meaning to different people - one that differs from the one you suggest is that, as the war was so costly in terms of lives and the terrible effect it had on the various countries involved, there could never be a war like it again.
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tedmoleOffline
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PostPosted: 22-08-2005 22:01    Post subject: Reply with quote

Indeed, many people did see it as being the 'Ultimate' war because it could never happen again. But there again, we could argue about whether we were talking about the 'apocalypse' in a literal or figurative sense, or what it was we specifically meant when employing the term 'apocalypse'. But ultimately I think there's enough annecdotal evidence, coupled with events (in certain cases, some small communities were utterly devastated and even erradicated after having lost an entire generation of young men on the French and Belgian battlefields). Also, the impact upon the culture, and the terms in which the war was viewed by society as a whole can only really be effectively determined some years after the event, when people are no longer personally connected to the subject in question and can afford a more dispassionate viewpoint.
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Jerry_BOffline
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PostPosted: 22-08-2005 22:26    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yep - but I think longmanshort is looking for actual End Times-type outlooks from that particular time WRT WW1...
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tedmoleOffline
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PostPosted: 22-08-2005 23:34    Post subject: Reply with quote

Look, who's writing the blinking article anyway?! Wink
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PostPosted: 23-08-2005 02:28    Post subject: Reply with quote

Just off the top of my head. Look into a quote that goes something like "and the lights go out all over europe we will not see them lit again in our lifetimes" could be Churchill. Even more impressive is the whole eleventh minute of the eleventh hour deal. They really thought they were that close to the end of civilization. Whole generation wiped out. Worth having a look at William Manchester's biography of Churchill part one. Very readable.

Andy
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tedmoleOffline
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PostPosted: 23-08-2005 17:33    Post subject: Reply with quote

Actually, I believe it was Edward Grey, the Foreign Secretary, who said "The lamps are going out all over Europe; we shall not see them lit again in our lifetime.", but thanks for the reminder.

The following
http://www.aftermathww1.com/index.asp might be of some interest too.
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YithianOffline
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PostPosted: 20-01-2014 13:52    Post subject: The First World War Reply with quote

Quote:
For The Fallen
By Laurence Binyon

With proud thanksgiving, a mother for her children,
England mourns for her dead across the sea.
Flesh of her flesh they were, spirit of spirit,
Fallen in the cause of the free.

Solemn the drums thrill: Death august and royal
Sings sorrow up into immortal spheres.
There is music in the midst of desolation
And a glory that shines upon our tears.

They went with songs to the battle, they were young,
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted,
They fell with their faces to the foe.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old;
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

They mingle not with laughing comrades again;
They sit no more at familiar tables of home;
They have no lot in our labour of the day-time;
They sleep beyond England's foam.

But where our desires are and our hopes profound,
Felt as a well-spring that is hidden from sight,
To the innermost heart of their own land they are known
As the stars are known to the Night;

As the stars that shall be bright when we are dust,
Moving in marches upon the heavenly plain,
As the stars that are starry in the time of our darkness,
To the end, to the end, they remain.


We'll be reading, hearing and seeing an awful lot about The Great War in this centenary of its outbreak, so I may as well start the ball rolling with this really rather suprisingly good article from the BBC.

As soon as the BBC strike upon a subject you actually know well, you begin to notice how hideously simplified some of their more modern televisual output can be; this piece by Dan Snow, in contrast, is succinct, insightful and entirely to the point. No amount of admiration for Messrs Curtis and Elton can mask the fact that the Blackadderisation of the conflict has opacified and caricatured rather than clarified the picture of the War that the majority of British public carry in their minds; most people don't realise quite how narrow and inadequate a pigeonhole they've place it in. Anyway, this few thousand words should help clear the fog:

Quote:
Lions and donkeys: 10 big myths about World War One debunked

Much of what we think we know about the 1914-18 conflict is wrong, writes historian Dan Snow.

No war in history attracts more controversy and myth than World War One.

For the soldiers who fought it was in some ways better than previous conflicts, and in some ways worse.

By setting it apart as uniquely awful we are blinding ourselves to the reality of not just WW1 but war in general. We are also in danger of belittling the experience of soldiers and civilians caught up in countless other appalling conflicts throughout history and the present day.

1. It was the bloodiest war in history to that point

Fifty years before WW1 broke out, southern China was torn apart by an even bloodier conflict. Conservative estimates of the dead in the 14-year Taiping rebellion start at between 20 and 30 million. Around 17 million soldiers and civilians were killed during WW1.

Although more Britons died in WW1 than any other conflict, the bloodiest war in our history relative to population size is the Civil War which raged in the mid-17th Century. It saw a far higher proportion of the population of the British Isles killed than the less than 2% who died in WW1. By contrast around 4% of the population of England and Wales, and considerably more than that in Scotland and Ireland, are thought to have been killed in the Civil War.

2. Most soldiers died

In the UK around six million men were mobilised, and of those just over 700,000 were killed. That's around 11.5%.

In fact, as a British soldier you were more likely to die during the Crimean War (1853-56) than in WW1.

3. Men lived in the trenches for years on end

Front-line trenches could be a terribly hostile place to live. Often wet, cold and exposed to the enemy, units would quickly lose their morale if they spent too much time in them.

As a result, the British army rotated men in and out continuously. Between battles, a unit spent perhaps 10 days a month in the trench system, and of those, rarely more than three days right up on the front line. It was not unusual to be out of the line for a month.
World war one trench

During moments of crisis, such as big offensives, the British could occasionally spend up to seven days on the front line but were far more often rotated out after just a day or two.
4. The upper class got off lightly

Although the great majority of casualties in WW1 were from the working class, the social and political elite was hit disproportionately hard by WW1. Their sons provided the junior officers whose job it was to lead the way over the top and expose themselves to the greatest danger as an example to their men.

Some 12% of the British army's ordinary soldiers were killed during the war, compared with 17% of its officers. Eton alone lost more than 1,000 former pupils - 20% of those who served. UK wartime Prime Minister Herbert Asquith lost a son, while future Prime Minister Andrew Bonar Law lost two. Anthony Eden lost two brothers, another brother of his was terribly wounded and an uncle was captured.

5. 'Lions led by donkeys'

This saying was supposed to have come from senior German commanders describing brave British soldiers led by incompetent old toffs from their chateaux. In fact it was made up by historian Alan Clark.

During the war more than 200 generals were killed, wounded or captured. Most visited the front lines every day. In battle they were considerably closer to the action than generals are today.

Naturally, some generals were not up to the job, but others were brilliant, such as Arthur Currie, a middle-class Canadian failed insurance broker and property developer.

Rarely in history have commanders had to adapt to a more radically different technological environment.

British commanders had been trained to fight small colonial wars, now they were thrust into a massive industrial struggle unlike anything the British army had ever seen.

Despite this, within three years the British had effectively invented a method of warfare still recognisable today. By the summer of 1918 the British army was probably at its best ever and it inflicted crushing defeats on the Germans.

6. Gallipoli was fought by Australians and New Zealanders

Far more British soldiers fought on the Gallipoli peninsula than Australians and New Zealanders put together.

The UK lost four or five times as many men in the brutal campaign as her imperial Anzac contingents. The French also lost more men than the Australians.

The Aussies and Kiwis commemorate Gallipoli ardently, and understandably so, as their casualties do represent terrible losses both as a proportion of their forces committed and of their small populations.

7. Tactics on the Western Front remained unchanged despite repeated failure

Never have tactics and technology changed so radically in four years of fighting. It was a time of extraordinary innovation. In 1914 generals on horseback galloped across battlefields as men in cloth caps charged the enemy without the necessary covering fire. Both sides were overwhelmingly armed with rifles. Four years later, steel-helmeted combat teams dashed forward protected by a curtain of artillery shells.

They were now armed with flame throwers, portable machine-guns and grenades fired from rifles. Above, planes, that in 1914 would have appeared unimaginably sophisticated, duelled in the skies, some carrying experimental wireless radio sets, reporting real-time reconnaissance.

Huge artillery pieces fired with pinpoint accuracy - using only aerial photos and maths they could score a hit on the first shot. Tanks had gone from the drawing board to the battlefield in just two years, also changing war forever.

8. No-one won

Swathes of Europe lay wasted, millions were dead or wounded. Survivors lived on with severe mental trauma. The UK was broke. It is odd to talk about winning.

However, in a narrow military sense, the UK and her allies convincingly won. Germany's battleships had been bottled up by the Royal Navy until their crews mutinied rather than make a suicidal attack against the British fleet.

Germany's army collapsed as a series of mighty allied blows scythed through supposedly impregnable defences.

By late September 1918 the German emperor and his military mastermind Erich Ludendorff admitted that there was no hope and Germany must beg for peace. The 11 November Armistice was essentially a German surrender.

Unlike Hitler in 1945, the German government did not insist on a hopeless, pointless struggle until the allies were in Berlin - a decision that saved countless lives, but was seized upon later to claim Germany never really lost.

9. The Versailles Treaty was extremely harsh

The treaty of Versailles confiscated 10% of Germany's territory but left it the largest, richest nation in central Europe.

It was largely unoccupied and financial reparations were linked to its ability to pay, which mostly went unenforced anyway.

The treaty was notably less harsh than treaties that ended the 1870-71 Franco-Prussian War and World War Two. The German victors in the former annexed large chunks of two rich French provinces, part of France for around 300 years, and home to most of French iron ore production, as well as presenting France with a massive bill for immediate payment.
Treaty of Versailles Treaty of Versailles, 1919

After WW2 Germany was occupied, split up, her factory machinery smashed or stolen and millions of prisoners forced to stay with their captors and work as slave labourers. Germany lost all the territory it had gained after WW1 and another giant slice on top of that.

Versailles was not harsh but was portrayed as such by Hitler who sought to create a tidal wave of anti-Versailles sentiment on which he could then ride into power.

10. Everyone hated it

Like any war, it all comes down to luck. You may witness unimaginable horrors that leave you mentally and physically incapacitated for life, or you might get away without a scrape. It could be the best of times, or the worst of times.

Many soldiers enjoyed WW1. If they were lucky they would avoid a big offensive, and much of the time, conditions might be better than at home.
German soldiers and Polish girls

For the British there was meat every day - a rare luxury back home - cigarettes, tea and rum, part of a daily diet of over 4,000 calories.

Absentee rates due to sickness, an important barometer of a unit's morale were, remarkably, hardly above peacetime rates. Many young men enjoyed the guaranteed pay, the intense comradeship, the responsibility and a much greater sexual freedom than in peacetime Britain.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-25776836


I'd also add a number 11: that it was, despite the name a primarily European War in which white faces clashed - not at all the case given the enormous number of Imperial troops to see action on both sides.

Perhaps number 12: there was a disproportionately large percentage of poets. Not really - there were just some very good ones.

There are also some incredible audio recording available from the Imperial War Museum: http://www.1914.org/podcasts/
And an enormous amount here:
http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/search?query=interview&items_per_page=10&f[0]=mediaType%3Aaudio&f[1]=webCategory%3Asound&f[2]=contentDate%3AFirst%20World%20War


Last edited by Yithian on 20-01-2014 14:15; edited 1 time in total
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Pietro_Mercurios
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PostPosted: 20-01-2014 14:10    Post subject: Reply with quote

Merged an earlier thread discussion about whether WWI was the first, 'Apocalyptic War'. Suitably Fortean slant.

P_M



I was once nearly drunk under the table by an old Orcadian who had served in the Great War. He was well into his eighties. That was more than thirty years ago. Even earlier, I remember when there was still a huge contingent of WWI veterans every Armistice Day. Now there are none left to give their personal testimonies or challenge recent, 'reappraisals'.
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Pietro_Mercurios
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PostPosted: 20-01-2014 14:39    Post subject: Reply with quote

Interesting take on the run up to First World War, from journalist Robert Fisk, with a quick British history lesson.
Quote:
http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/robert-fisk-britain-feared-civil-war-in-ireland-morethan-it-feared-war-in-europe-100-years-ago-9070438.html

Robert Fisk: Britain feared civil war in Ireland more than it feared war in Europe 100 years ago

Was the British Empire about to crumble from within? This was the question at the start of 1914

Independent on Sunday. Robert Fisk. 19 January 2014


When I was researching the execution of Chinese workers employed by the British on the Western Front of the Great War at the Public Record Office, I found, among the papers, the official notice of the death by firing squad of Padraig Pearse and the other “rebels” of the 1916 Easter Rising in Dublin. Pearse and his brother Willie, and Connolly and McBride and the other 10 men put to death in Dublin on the orders of General John Maxwell, were deemed worthy of capital punishment in the 1914-18 war. Their papers lay in the very same file as those of British soldiers shot for desertion or cowardice in France. For the British Army, the Easter Rising was just another episode in the Great War.

I recalled all this last week when I walked past the central redoubt of the 1916 insurrection, the General Post Office in O’Connell Street in central Dublin, its walls still scarred by a few bullet holes; another bullet – probably British – left its hole in the left breast of a bronze angel guarding O’Connell’s statue beside the River Liffey. And when I turned into Lower Abbey Street, I walked past Wynn’s Hotel where the Irish Volunteers – who were to fight in the Easter Rising and are the forerunners of today’s Irish Army – held their first meeting on 11 November 1913.

Astounding it is to recall now that this event (partly in response to the creation of the armed Protestant Ulster Volunteers) and the civil violence in Dublin and other cities at the time consumed British politics on the eve of the Great War. Civil war in Ireland – not war on the continent of Europe – is what London feared 100 years ago. Would the British Army mutiny if ordered to force the Protestants of Ulster into Home Rule? Was the British Empire about to crumble from within? This was the question at the start of 1914.

And could I not sense this a few metres away from Wynn’s – still, by the way, a hotel – where the Abbey Theatre was last week staging another version of James Plunkett’s The Risen People. A collection of stories on the 1913 Dublin lockout by Jimmy Fay from a version by Jim Sheridan with characters from Plunkett’s original Strumpet City, it told the story – from the workers’ point of view – of the great anti-trade union struggle of William Martin Murphy, an immensely wealthy Irish businessman and owner of the Irish Independent newspaper, who colluded with other employers to refuse work to anyone joining Jim Larkin’s Irish Transport and General Workers Union. Up to 100,000 Irish men and women were put out of work in a city of 305,000 people, of whom 87,000 lived in tenements and where infant mortality was the highest in Europe.

For the British – who still owned Ireland – the lockout was symptomatic of the growing nationalism of the island, even though the industrial struggle was between Irish workers and employers. British trade unions offered funds to their Irish brothers and sisters – and even temporary homes for their starving children. But the Irish Catholic Church, opposing such assistance on the grounds that the children of the poor would be in the care of English Protestants, persuaded their flock that it was better their progeny should starve in Dublin than receive three meals a day in England. The Risen People contains songs aplenty – not least the Communist Internationale – but the one trade union official who is asked to sign an employer’s document promising to abandon Larkin’s union in return for work, burns the paper in 1914 – and joins the British Army.

So at the end, he is presented with his military webbing, khaki uniform, Lee Enfield 303 rifle and steel helmet, and sent off to Flanders. The lockout lasted for eight months – whether the employers or their workers won is still debatable – but the hero who should have benefited from a good life in his own land leaves for an inevitable death on the Western Front – in British uniform rather than that of the Irish Volunteers who first met round the corner from the Abbey.

Not so surprising, though, when you remember that Irish parliamentary leader John Redmond – promised that Home Rule would be passed at the end of hostilities – urged the Volunteers to take Britain’s side against Germany. Upwards of 170,000 answered his call, but among the Volunteers’ leadership were those who believed, after the trenches of France had smothered hopes of an early end to the war, that England’s difficulty was Ireland’s opportunity.

Thus one side in the putative civil war which dominated the British empire in the early months of 1914 took up arms against it two years later. For the British, who had gone to war for the freedom of little Belgium, the firing squads of 1916 were a mere footnote in the Great War. For the Irish, they were the start of the final struggle for the freedom of another little country. And just over two months later came the Somme.

Stuff not only the British Mainland may have forgotten.
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OneWingedBirdOffline
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PostPosted: 20-01-2014 19:16    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
Now there are none left to give their personal testimonies or challenge recent, 'reappraisals'.


History is a subject I seem to have really fallen out with due to it's irritating habit of changing every so often. Generally when no-one that was there is in a position to challenge that.

Quote:
Although more Britons died in WW1 than any other conflict, the bloodiest war in our history relative to population size is the Civil War which raged in the mid-17th Century. It saw a far higher proportion of the population of the British Isles killed than the less than 2% who died in WW1. By contrast around 4% of the population of England and Wales, and considerably more than that in Scotland and Ireland, are thought to have been killed in the Civil War.


For context, estimates of the population size cira 1600s are about 4 to 5 million.

So that's about 200,00 casualties in the civil war (no known figure for wounded) versus 703,000 killed and 1.7 million wounded in WW1.

Switching to percentages there is a bit misleading.
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PostPosted: 20-01-2014 21:01    Post subject: Reply with quote

OneWingedBird wrote:
Quote:
Now there are none left to give their personal testimonies or challenge recent, 'reappraisals'.


History is a subject I seem to have really fallen out with due to it's irritating habit of changing every so often. Generally when no-one that was there is in a position to challenge that.


Yep, I studied history at 'A' level, and found that the more research I did, the more different accounts I found. It seems that a lot of historical writing is very much filtered by the political bias of the historian.

I failed my 'A' level history dismally.
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PostPosted: 20-01-2014 22:17    Post subject: Reply with quote

theyithian wrote:
...most people don't realise quite how narrow and inadequate a pigeonhole they've place it in...


Clichés are often clichés because they are true – that they’re not necessarily the whole truth is always worth pointing out, but anyone reassessing history has to be very careful: that there’s more to the story than might at first seem obvious should not be used to suggest that there’s less to the story we already have. (I’m not suggesting that’s where you’re coming from, Yith, or for that matter the BBC article – but it’s undeniable that attempts to convince us that what we’ve always been told is wrong can sometimes come over as a little smug.)

It's worth pointing out that partiality of knowledge regarding the conflict is not in the least a modern phenomenon (nor, for that matter, is knowledge of that partiality), nor is it one which can be attributed solely to those who lack the experience of conflict. In his essay, The Shadow of the Somme: the Influence of the First World War on British Soldiers' Perceptions and Behaviour in the Second World War, G D Sheffield points out that:

Quote:
The physical conditions of soldiers on campaign in the Second World War were often as gruelling as, if not worse than, those of their predecessors of 1914-18. Many soldiers of 1939-45 clung, however, to their belief that bad as things were, on the Western Front things had been much worse.


That common misconception is now a pretty standard point of focus in many books on WW2. In some cases a soldier’s experience of the latter conflict had much more in common with his father's and grandfather's experience of WW1 than they realised – for instance, during the bogged-down period in Normandy in the weeks after D-Day, and in the horrendous conditions in which they had to fight in Holland. (It should be emphasised that what’s being suggested is most certainly not that conditions in WW1 were better than portrayed, but that conditions in WW2 were often comparable.)

Sheffield’s article is included in the book, Time To Kill – The Soldiers Experience of War in the West 1939 – 1945: a collection of essays originating from a conference organised by the History Department of the University of Edinburgh. Highly recommended.

As for WW1 – there are a lot of standards and classics (I probably re-read Goodbye To All That about once every couple of years), but the following is a very short and utterly inexhaustive list of recommendations of those that have stuck in my mind the most:

The Great War and Modern Memory – Paul Fussell.

The Missing of the Somme – Geoff Dyer.

It was the War of the Trenches and Goddamn This War – Jacques Tardi.

Hot Blood and Cold Steel – Andy Simpson.

The first two are particularly relevant in the centenary year as they are both examinations of the way we remember the war, rather than pure histories of what happened – and like many of the best books on any subject, approach that subject from a slight tangent to the standard.

Jacques Tardi’s graphic novels, inspired by the recollections of his Corsican grandfather’s memories of fighting in the French army, are remarkable and disturbing – the first, certainly, is a masterpiece.

Hot Blood and Cold Steel uses a format which has become very common since that book was published (notably in the Forgotten Voices series), in that it is structured around actual verbatim reminiscences, using participants own words to illustrate particular aspects of the conflict. I actually think it’s one of the better examples of that style – fluid, well structured and edited.

I’m going to have to dig it out and re-read it now, but I seem to remember that one of the clearest and most succinct accounts I’ve read of the build up to the conflict, and the desperate attempts to avert it, was actually in the book In Europe – Travels Through the Twentieth Century by the Dutch journalist and historian, Geert Mak.
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PostPosted: 20-01-2014 22:37    Post subject: Reply with quote

"In the UK around six million men were mobilised, and of those just over 700,000 were killed. That's around 11.5%."

In fact, as a British soldier you were more likely to die during the Crimean War (1853-56) than in WW1


Just over 700.00 killed, thats ok then nothing to get upset about. Around 11.5% killed...i take it thats including all the tail and not just the teeth. make the statistics just refer to combat troops and you will see that it was a tad more then 11%.


You where more likely to die as a Uk soldier in the crimean war.. wikki (ye ye i know but i know nothing about the crimean war) says there where 250.000 British soldiers with 2,755–6,000 killed in action, 2,019 died of wounds, could some brainy bod do the maths on that

I was around Ypres last year and it was moving to visit places i read so much about, the highlight was when we where in a reconstructed trench when some of the people that excavated it arrived and spoke to us about their work, and when they found out i was british they gave me part of a British 303 bullet they found in the trench. Very Happy (i was shitting bricks going through customs though)


The most moving world war one thing i have read was not a poem, nor the magnificent book winged victory, but this diary entry.

let us look back upon the achievements which have justified the slight sacrifices we have made.What are the achievements? Well we have-er-er-we have er- held our own against the er-numerically and morally inferior enemy.
We have er-shown the whole world that Britain is fighting as she has always fought- in India, ireland, south africa and elsewhere-to uphold the right of smaller nationalities to determine their own destinies and form of government, and to redress the wrongs of the weak..We have from time to time set before ourselves many nobler aims, modified from time to time by our inability to carry them out or by our realisation of their unprofitable nature.

we will never sheath the sword untill we have finally crushed prussian militarism, and even then we wont sheath it much, as we intend to starve the german nation, men women and children, by an economic boycott for ever and ever and ever, as a means of removing war and paving the way for everlasting peace. Germany will presumably sit contrite and humbled in sackcloth and ashes, joyfully expiating the sins of her rulers, without thought of revenge, without hope of prosperity,just as we should, of course if we were so humbled.

Lieutenant Thomas hughes 53 squadron RFC

Thomas hughes died in action 5th february 1918, so that diary entry had no benefit of hindsight. It was taken from Peter hart "aces falling"
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