This is my first attempt at being creative in a blogpost. Given the subject matter I have chosen, World War I, or the Great War as it was called until 1939, it would be easy to offend people. That is not at all my intention. Indeed, I am trying to draw the attention of the living to just how much those 888,246 young casualties were asked to give up….all the rest of their young lives, the wives and husbands they never had, the children, the careers, their quiet old age. Everything.
Cue the first section of this well-known song, written by John Lennon…
“I read the news today, oh boy
About a lucky man…..”
Well, to be absolutely precise, not just one lucky man, but all 888,246 of them.
Every single one, in actual fact, of the military fatalities of World War One from Great Britain and the British Empire, each one of which will be commemorated by a ceramic poppy, planted on his or her behalf in the dry moat of the Tower of London.
“And though the news was rather sad
Well, I just had to laugh”
Well, I felt closer to crying actually. So many young men were slaughtered, so many young lives came crashing to a halt, and above all, the unknown potential of so many young minds was snuffed out.
What might some of those 888,246 young people have discovered for the benefit of the rest of Mankind? And how would all of them have spent another fifty or sixty years of family life, if they had been lucky enough to have had one?
The war started more or less, by pure chance.
“On Sunday, 28 June 1914, Franz Ferdinand and his wife were killed in Sarajevo by Gavrilo Princip, a member of a group of assassins organized by the Black Hand. Earlier in the day, the couple had been attacked by Nedeljko Čabrinović, who had thrown a grenade at their car. However, the bomb detonated behind them, hurting the occupants in the following car. On arriving at the Governor’s residence, Franz angrily shouted, “So this is how you welcome your guests — with bombs?!”
After a short rest at the Governor’s residence, the royal couple insisted on seeing all those who had been injured by the bomb. However, no one told the drivers that the route had been changed. When the error was discovered, the drivers had to turn around. As the cars backed down the street and onto a side street, the line of cars stalled. At this same time, Princip was sitting at a cafe across the street. He instantly seized his opportunity and walked across the street and shot the royal couple.”
“I saw the photograph.
They blew his life out in a car.
He didn’t notice that the route had changed.
A crowd of people stood and stared
They’d seen his face before
Nobody was really sure if he was from the House of Lords”
What a pointless reason for the deaths of millions and millions of people, not just from this country and the British Empire, but from our fellow members of the present day European Community: Belgium, France, Italy, and of course, our good friends in Germany and the USA.
The total number of deaths worldwide, was between 15,163,603 and 17,989,782.
“I saw a film today, oh boy
The English army had just won the war”
“A crowd of people turned away”
Perhaps they were disgusted when they were told that the paperwork for the Armistice had been signed at 5.00 a.m. but that 11,000 more men were to be killed over the course of the next six hours. And of course, there were lots of excuses at hand for this heartless bungling by people to whom the ordinary soldiers’ lives were, ultimately, of little or no consequence.
Worse than that, in many places on the front line, well after that 11.00 a.m. deadline, combat continued, and men died pointlessly.
“But I just had to look
Having read the book”
Except that there is no book. No book with the list of the names of the eight to ten million dead soldiers, the twenty one million wounded soldiers, or the fifteen to eighteen million dead civilians.
There is no record of who looked after and loved those 40 million horses, dogs, pigeons and other animals which perished.
Nobody will ever know what the world could have done with the £109,000,000,000 that was spent on the conflict.
And just in case you didn’t know, here is how a very large proportion of those desperately young men were to end their lives….
And while the ordinary working man came to understood the real truths of international brotherhood and comradeship…
The real monster lurked in the crowd…