Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Lest we forget - a caution on the Great War

Noble Readers the world over will doubtless soon begin to hear the distant trumpets that herald another historical anniversary. Here in Britain we have received over the past few months a steady flow of TV documentaries as the media rev up for the August, 2014 centenary of the start of World War One.

But I have already noticed a worrying trend in the coverage, which I feel I must remark upon and perhaps even attempt to correct. Many years ago, in the 1960's, it became fashionable to denigrate Britain's efforts to halt the German invasion of Belgium and France. Cheesy productions such as "Oh! What a Lovely War" saw luvvies* of lofty rank mercilessly lampooning the generals of the Great War, and the phrase "lions led by donkeys" became vogue. It was also common to hear the Great War described as "futile."

Today, we have a more informed view of those days. We understand that the explosion of German aggression that all but destroyed Europe, was something that had to be opposed. Millions of good men gave life and limb to accomplish that end, and the generals who led them eventually won the war. To hear present-day media types ignorantly ridiculing that heroic effort as imbecilic or callous turns my stomach.

My remedy? Just say "no" to mealy-mouthed obfuscation and historical revisionism. And say it loud when it dishonours our fallen heroes. These men would not have wanted to be remembered as victims, but as men who stepped up when civilization needed saving from a bestial menace.

The truth is, Prussian militarism was a nasty piece of work. It had to be curbed every bit as much as its natural heir, the Nazis. Prussian militarism specialized in invading neighbouring countries and then treating their inhabitants with appalling brutality. So when you hear commentators attempt to characterize the Great War as a six and two threes kind of thing, in which the blame ought to be shared out equally by all the countries involved, just remember that the Germans were the bad guys.

The moment Germany became a nation ruled by the Prussian military they went looking for trouble. Austria, Denmark, France ... no neighbour was safe. If German armies hadn't swarmed across their borders in 1914 in pursuit of long-planned conquests, then there would have been no war. Germany started it. It was Germany's fault. We must remember that and remember it accurately, or remembrance is worthless.

Why not click on this link and get  a copy of The Deadly Playground (above) - my latest novel and set in this period?

* British slang. A luvvy is an actor, usually of the  pretentious, overblown or narcissistic kind.


  1. Thank you for a well balanced sensible account of the coming centenary and the missives of celebration that are so obscured by over sentimental hysteria. I particularly like your phrase "Just say no" . Opinions like yours are far and few between. As those that such as I that share this view grow slowly in number, I am afraid we are dwarfed by those currently being educated by the media who seek nothing more than to perpetuate the old myths. The battle for the truth I am afraid is already lost on the masses.

    Thanks for this uplifting blog !

    Pete Knight

    1. We are not so few in numbers as you think. Thanks to the efforts of historians like Gary Sheffield the old lies are being revealed for what they are. Could I suggest you look at today's Sunday Times (11.05.2014) in which Max Hastings contributes an article entitled "Oh What a Lovely Myth". The tide is turning in our favour.

      Great to make contact with you - and hope you enjoy the novel!

    2. Thanks Robert,

      I was taught by Gary when I did my MA in British First World War Studies at Birmingham. He is doing his best that is assured but I think we still lie firmly in the minority. I saw Max Hastings excellent article this morning, we need more of that for sure.

      All the best Pete

    3. so so true its a pity the politicians dont think the same and dare to speak the truth about a war that was not our fault but lost us a lot of good boys and men because we were strong enough to stand against evil not once but twice against the same aggressor

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. Thanks for the level-headed look at the Great War. As is all too common, the war was won by the military and lost by the politicians. Some things never change.

  4. "The truth is, Prussian militarism was a nasty piece of work." Indeed, but British imperialism and militarism that involved little details such as Boer concentration camps was just lovely.