This coming weekend will see many events commemorating the 100th anniversary of the beginning of the Great War.
Over the next four years, as each significant battle reaches its centenary, we shall be reminded of the futile waste of millions of lives, the horrendous conditions, the death on an industrial scale. Some will wonder why the young men believed the politicians lies and went forth in such numbers. Many will wonder how nationalism and patriotism were mishandled, misinterpreted and misrepresented to usher in the massacre of a generation.
But that overlooks a simple truth. Many young men and women want to test themselves in war. They don’t need a politician’s lies or truths to make their decision. If their nation finds itself at war, they will go. Each one with a reason normally only truly known to themselves. That’s not to overlook how the media and the populace can be swayed, influenced and manipulated by a Government but it is important not to lose sight of other factors. It wasn’t all about white feathers and peer pressure. Many relished the chance. Many strove to do their duty and many were heroes. Whether the aftermath, the broken lives, broken minds and broken families were relished in the same manner is a moot point. But no debate can alter the ranks of headstones that cover France, the Low Countries and further afield.
Sadly the war that was to end all wars, simply didn’t. The anniversary will be marked around the world by continuing conflict. The promise of a lasting peace was a transitory illusion.