|German War graves in France|
invasions of France, Russia and the Balkans by the Central Powers as well as the Allied invasion of the Middle East and Gallipoli.
The First World War claimed 22,477,500 Allied KIA, WIA and MIA as well as a further 16,403,000 Central Powers KIA, WIA, MIA. One of those was my Grandmother's Uncle Donald Homersham MM who was killed instantly by a German shell on the 16th October 1916 on the Somme.
With Michael Gove's recent posturing on the subject as well as recent comments about German aggression basically blaming them for starting the war, which has riled them somewhat, the whole centenary is looking like it could become mired in baseless "facts" and arguments.
This is not what it is about.
The centenary of the First World War is not about who won what, whose fault it is, Historical revisionism, patriotic tub thumping and for reliving past Imperial glories (that's all of the nations) - it is about the suffering and death that was caused, it is about the soldiers, sailors and airmen who paid the ultimate sacrifice of death or wounding, for the many who are still missing or lay in unknown graves.
This is their war, their centenary. It is about the human aspect and experience, the stories and fighting that once read will turn your hair white and put you off the notion of War.
We were attacking the very last German trench. We were all knocked out, Their machine guns were waiting for us. We didn.t get through. None of us, There was a big shell-hole full of dead and dying and blinded. Tall men got it through the jaw, shorter men through the eyes. I was five foot ten and shot through my cheek. I was walking along, and a bullet blew all of my teeth out. I fell forward and spat all my teeth out. I collapsed and, hours later, I came round. My left eye was closed, I couldn't talk. I could breath, that was all. I got my field dressing out and wound it round m face and left eye. I could see through my right eye and I could see one of my Corporals who'd been shot through the foot. I took off his boot, bandaged it up, put his boot on again and he used his rifle as a crutch and together we went back. there was nobody around. Just the dead
We saw a man. A shell had come over and hit him and knocked off his left arm and his left leg. His left eye was hanging on his cheek, and he was calling out "Annie" I shot him. \I had to. Put him out of his misery. It hurt me. It hurt me. - Sergeant James Payne 16th Battalion of the Manchester Regiment on the first day of the Somme. (Forgotten voices of the Somme by Joshua Levine p.133)
|Men blinded by mustard gas|
I saw a Tweet yesterday from Rural Labour that read the following:
WW1 - Remember many of those on war memorials in rural villages - were agricultural labourers (and union members)I can't help but wonder what the status of Union membership has to do with anything? My Great Grandfather Walter Sams was a Police officer so could not join a union - he still fought in 1918 as a Grenadier Guard, I am forced to wonder how many others in my family were union men and does it actually matter. Union, non-union, rich or poor, British, Canadian, French, German or Austrian they all spilled the same blood in the same mud in horrific circumstances and it is this, and the men themselves that we should be remembering.
— Rural Labour (@rurallabouruk) February 1, 2014
We should be remembering and talking about what our ancestors went through, talking about conditions, the death, the trenches, the gas, the endless futility not who was right and who was wrong or how it started - ultimately those things don't matter and have been long forgotten by the collective memory.
What will be remembered is that the First World War was ultimately an act of futility as massive Empire's battled using Nineteenth century tactics with twentieth century weapons. The scale was unprecedented and saw scenes of war never seen before or in some cases since. The men who died did not die for Politics or governments but for their friends and comrades (and Kommeraden) for it was Politcs and governments who got them there in the first place. This is not the time for one up manship and the sort of Jingoistic attitude that got everyone into that mess but for quiet reflection and remembering who fell for their country and not why they fell.