WWI 90 years ago.

I’m cross posting a OP from a thread I started somewhere else.

90 years ago the world changed. Europe started a conflict that would change the shape of Europe and the world forever. The nature of warfare changed and the true nature of the cruelty of modern warfare was confronted by the world although the Americans already knew about this due to their Civil War.

A generation of men were destroyed along with their families and dreams. Countries ceased to be and the countries that survived were changed forever.

A German general said at Versailles that this wasn’t the end, it was a 20 year ceasefire. How right he was.

900,000 Britons died, a lot from my country as they too were British in those days. The way these men were just thrown at hot metal was shocking. The treatment of shock victim was also shameful. Men who had survived shelling only to have their minds destroyed by the trauma were tied to posts and shot for cowardice.

Pals regiments were set up that led to whole towns and villages losing all their young men in one day at places like Verdun, The Somme, Gallipoli and many more.

BY Wilfred Owen whose parents were celebrating Armistice when they were informed that their son had died seven days before.
Yesterday four men represented all the dead. 23 veterans are left but only four could make the trip.
The last survivors

God help me, I really thought I was in Hell. I can’t describe it no one could. It was such a din, and the flashes were something awful, like thousands of streaks of lightning. It fairly shook the ground under us, then all of a sudden the Germans recovered from the shock, which was just before dawn. Then they gave us some of their fury, shell after shell was sent over to us on the offhand of killing as many of us as possible. We advanced a bit quite steady which seems marvellous under such a tornado of shell fire.

Something worse was to follow. Perhaps I daren’t mention it, but I know you won’t worry, as it is finished now and I probably will never go into that part of the line again I hope not however. Here goes then, on reaching our objective we had orders to dig ourselves in. Of course we soon set about it and dug for our lives, as the shells were coming over. When we got about 4ft down, we came across the bones of men who had died a year before. By jove, it was horrible work but we simply had to do it.

  • Extract from a letter written by Lieutenant V S Wood DCM - Passchendale, 6th August 1917.

A salute to the few survivors. Living nearly 100 years after enduring so much.

I cannot fathom and I can never adequatly thank these men and women who bravely signed up to walk into hell for the sake of our freedom.

I’m not convinced at all they fought for our or anyone else’s freedom…

They didn’t. If ever there was a vast it was WWI. Arrogance and hedgemony started it.

The last quote in the Independant Article I linked to in the OP brings tears to my eyes.

I’ve talked to three guys about this very thing. One who went to Vietnam, one who was in North Africa (WWII) and another with the Red Army in the Caucasus. When they chose to put themselves in a dangerous position to engage the enemy, the motivation was never Queen or King and Country or the Proletariat. It’s not about the Flag or the Freedom of folks back home. It’s about backing up their mates and following the instincts instilled in them during basic training. It can also be because you really fucking hate the other guys. To suggest otherwise is laughable.

Regarding the people who accept the Defence of Freedom motivation for risk-taking, I wonder why they think the Wehrmacht or Red Army soldiers did the hair-raising things they did. I wonder why they think the human condition can differ so enormously under the most extreme condition imaginable based solely on national or political affiliation.

“Waste” somehow became “vast” in my last post.

Sure, when they’re actually in action, but a lot of the motivation for joining up in the first place is all those things. Remember that in the UK, there was no conscription. Every one of those men who were massacred was a volunteer. There was a hell of a lot of “your country needs you” “for King and country” propaganda going on, in addition to the societal pressure.

Sure, but patriotism and nationalism aren’t particularily laudable motivations, or else former waffen SS would deserve a lot of praises.

I’ve no proof, but in my heart I’ve always believed that WW1 grew out of Imperialism & Colonialism.

The Great Powers ran out of low-tech societies to bully & exploit as colonial subjects, & began to eye one another. Hungerly. They arrogantly assumed that an industrial state would be as easy to subjugate as a grass hut village.

Very bad judgement.

Oh yeah, I didn’t mean to imply judgement of the motivation - just that [insert ideal here] is in fact active in recruitment, even though it might not be active in battle.

jjimm, I don’t think it matters why they went. They went for whatever reason but had their eyes opened by the reality of an artillery barrage, mustard gas and dysentery. The question is; why did they stay after they found out Rudyard Kipling hadn’t told them the entire story?

Love of Country might provide the massed manpower but it’s hatred, camaraderie and fear that drives hand to hand combat and the stuff that wins the glamorous medals. The necessary bullshit to get the bodies to the theatre obviously varies; Allah, Freedom, Democracy, Race. But they’re all too complex to explain the drive for supposedly heroic acts in the face of machine-gun fire or artillery.

Read Kipling. The man who wrote

was never one to hide the true nature of war and combat.

Well, I’ impressed by the government, they did pretty good job of brainwashing all those young men to go voluntairly to war.Are you sure there was no conscription?

Yup, I’m sure.

I meant to add that the result of the Pals Battalions policy was the tragedy was intensified: when an entire battalion (or thereabouts) was massacred, as often happened, this meant that a family or a village or a town would lose every single one of its young men. The lists of dead on war memorials on village greens throughout England is particularly devastating. Sometimes you’ll see ten fallen with the same surname, and you know they were brothers or cousins.

was that general Sir Douglas Haig (who was responsible for much of the slaughter) was given a heartfelt “thank you” and a bonus payment of 100,000 pounds! As a reqrd for his service to the Empire.
The undertakers of Great Britain were busy from the efforts of general haig! :smack:

One of the reasons that the death toll in WW I was so great, was that the generals on all sides didn’t understand the destructive nature of all their new weapons. So they continued to use outmoded tactics, which meant that men were continually thrown into a meat grinder.



None of the great powers was seeking to subjugate any of the others in terms of colonial conquest as they had in the new world, Asia, etc. Except Austria was trying to break Serbia before it established itself as a Great Power, which is what triggered the whole thing.

Most of the principals involved recognized that this was going to be a hideously destructive war for everyone involved, but were too stubborn and didn’t want to lose face by backing down so they led their populaces straight into it.

True, but not for the reasons you seem to believe.

Unfortunately, the men of the American Expeditionary Force have gotten the dirty end of the stick. Last Spring when the WWII memorial was opened and everyone was saying “about time - 1,000 of us die every day,” never having been to Washington DC, I wasn’t aware of any WWI memorial in the capital. It turns out to be a simple column nowhere near the Mall. Big deal.

Ken Burns has hagiographed the soldiers of the Civil War, Tom Brokaw named the one from WWII “The Greatest Generation,” but what did the guys from 1917 get? They’re remembered, if at all, as the American Legion bullies who attacked Oakies with pick handles, or who lynched the Wobblies. The American Legion was never the political giant that the Grand Army of the Republic had been for their grandfathers, and instead of the GI Bill that sent their sons of 1941-45 to college and made them homeowners, the doughboys received the ugly finale of the Bonus March. After fighting in Francy, Italy and Russia, the AEF returned home to a country that was adamantly bent on turning its back on what they’d sacrificed for overseas, adopting to a policy of isolationism. “Thanks for nothing” is every bit as bitter to a veteran, even if it doens’t include being spit on at airports.

This for an army that suffered twice as many casualties in 1917-19 than in Vietnam from 1965-75. If asked what battle fought by the US resulted in the largest amount of casualties in its history, who would know that it was the Argonne, not Gettysburg or The Bulge?