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By Sean McPartlin
 
Alan Bennett famously wrote: “History? It’s just one fuckin thing after another!”. He was right, of course, but the older I get, the more I come to realise that its weight lies far more on individuals than on nations.
 
On October 12th 1917, 95 years ago today, my granddad, Tom Duckett, was a Gunner on the first day of the Battle of Paschendaele.

At home, my mum was 5 weeks old; my grandma had spent the previous two years traveling round England, with a baby girl and latterly pregnant, so she could spend some brief times with her husband – Portsmouth, Shoeburyness – they don’t put gunnery schools in easily accessible locations.

Tom was lucky, he survived the war and had the great ‘good fortune’ to go through it all again, as an ARP Warden in Liverpool during the May Blitz in 1941. In the fifties, when visiting us in Edinburgh, the boom of the One O’Clock gun would still make him dive for cover in doorways.

Five months later, my Uncle Joe, on my dad’s side, was fighting in France during the Mars Offensive. Though my family supported Sinn Fein, he had joined the Post Office Rifles, believing, as many did, that this was the war in defence of small nations and the war to end all wars. After the wholescale slaughter on the first day of the Somme, Joe was transferred to the London Rifle Brigade and became a Sergeant.

On March 28th 1918 he was in a forward position, Bird Post, on the road between Gavrelle and Oppy in the Pas de Calais. These posts were overrun and he was wounded, gassed and taken prisoner. Until receiving a postcard from him in the Friedrichsheim POW camp 6 months later, which I still have, the family believed he was dead. He never recovered from his wounds and died on May 25th 1923.

My dad, who worshipped his big brother, never quite got over his loss, nor the weight of becoming the oldest in the family. In one of those eerie coincidences of fate, when he died young in 1957, it was on the same date as Joe, May 25th.

For 37 years as a teacher, my speciality was ‘War Poetry’. I tried to use the words of Owen, Sassoon, Blunden, Rosenberg and Thomas to help pupils understand what Owen called ‘The Pity’ of war. I handed round cups filled with balls of shrapnel taken from the battlefields,I showed pictures, played recordings, described the mud in which men drowned; I talked of my granddad and my uncle, of family history, of the cousins I never had, of the places in France and Belgium where I still go, because I feel a connection. I pointed out that there were empty desks in their classrooms because the men who would have been their classmates’ great grandfathers never survived to have children.

As an English teacher, I wanted them to understand the power of poetry and imagery; as a human being I wanted them to understand that war was not glorious.

At the start of my career, in the seventies, I believed that “The old lie ‘Dulce et Decorum Est’ had run its time; people would not be fooled again in that manner.

Sadly, through the Falklands, the Gulf War, Iraq, and Afghanistan I was proved mistaken. Even more effectively than in 14-18, the lie was sold, criticism was to be unpatriotic, and young men with little economic alternative paid the price. ‘For Freedom’.

There is, of course, a fine and emotional line between honouring those who give their lives – whatever your view of the motive, and using them as poster boys and girls for patriotism of a dubious nature. In Sassoon’s poem at the end of this blog, written nearly a century ago, the point is made far more eloquently than I can manage. Plus ca change.

So David Cameron’s announcement, shortly after the end of the Conservative Party Conference, that ‘the country’ would start to commemorate the centenary of The Great War in 2014 and his linking it to the Queen’s Jubilee and the Olympic Games, as a celebration of ‘how great Britain can be’ set all sorts of alarm bells ringing.

It would be a strange state indeed that failed to commemorate the sacrifice made by hundreds and thousands of young men, and that 1914 should be remembered and acknowledged is beyond question. However, commemorating the start of the war rather than the Armistice is a strange approach, and the linking of a conflict in which millions died with the nature of a state’s ‘greatness’ is just bizarre.

As Churchill admitted, history is written by the winners, and the UK has long had an airbrushed view of the cause and effect of World War 1. It didn’t defend the rights of small nations, it wasn’t the war to end all wars, its prosecution was flawed by all manner of military and political errors, and in all sorts of ways the government was dishonest with the people at home, and the relatives of those who fell. There was nothing glorious about it and it certainly doesn’t demonstrate the ‘greatness’ of Britain – then or now.

It should have been the start of a learning experience for politicians, but it wasn’t, and, even today, we have those who suggest Britain having ‘influence in the world’, maintaining a nuclear arsenal at almighty cost, and clinging on to America’s coat tails on the world stage, is more important than tackling child poverty or the grotesque inequalities in British society.

This is not particularly an attack on David Cameron, or indeed on the Tories. All British governments have been adept at wrapping the flag around themselves when they thought it could detract from failing policies or calm down civilian unrest.

It’s not about politicians at all, in fact. It’s about all those young men who went across the channel and never returned, and all those families who lost a loved one or whose lives were changed utterly. It is interesting that this determination to use the war as a rallying point for Britishness has been announced after the deaths of the last combatants. The men who were at the front, who lived the experience, seldom referred to it at all, and when they eventually did, few of them spoke of glory or patriotism or pride – except in their friends and comrades.

There are still many in Britain who do not need government organised events to remember the men who fell in 1914-18 and who are rightly suspicious when a politician links the sacrifice of their forebears to proof of how great this country is. The UK state is the fourth most unequal society in terms of wealth and London is the most unequal city in the world. There is child poverty, pensioners in penury and mounting debt while a minority continue to get rich – Cameron is certainly representing ‘those who want to be better off’ as he claimed at his party conference.
Would the soldiers who fought in 1914 feel this was something they would want to link to their sacrifice?

Some claim the announcement of this commemoration is an attempt to detract from the Scottish Referendum, to remind everyone on these islands that they are ‘British’. I’m not sure it’s that targeted. I think it is lazy politics from a man whose party have no alternative to their stock approach to government. Andrew Mitchell let the cat out of the bag: they view most of us as ‘plebs’ and if they fling us a British event at regular intervals – a Royal Wedding, a Jubilee, the Olympics – we’ll be so happy, and so limited in our understanding, that we’ll forget about unemployment and poverty and the injustices of the real Britain. So they hope.

No point is too banal for this PR man. He mocks the Scottish First Minister and tells conference he’ll come to Scotland to ‘sort out’ this referendum thing; he chortles that Scots athletes draped themselves in the Union Flag at the Olympics, trusting us to forget they did that because all other flags were banned.

In this approach to Scotland he epitomises the dregs of 1970s advertising speak: Let’s run the flag up the pole and see who salutes. The future of a nation’s governance is not about flags and sports events. As a nationalist, I look to the day when our flag is merely a symbol of the country, not a ‘Wha’s like us!’ statement to claim our ‘difference’. Independence is about people’s lives and a country taking responsibility for its own affairs; acquiring the power to make a difference to its citizens in a positive way.

Why would we want a country which, a hundred years after the Great War, measured itself by its military prowess – what an insult to all those soldiers who died to end that sort of 19th century nonsense. Perhaps in Scotland, where along with Serbia, we lost more per head of population than any other country, we have more of an understanding of the nature of war, or perhaps Mr Cameron just doesn’t care. Maybe Boris Johnston will dress up as a British Bulldog to mark the event, if he thinks it will promote his ambitions – and oh how we’ll laugh.

So here’s my remembrance of the Great War – and I don’t have to wait till 2014 to launch it – it’s just about a daily occurrence, nor do I have to wrap it in a union flag – or a saltire.

Whenever I see a canal, I think about the last moments of Lt Wilfred Owen at Ors in northern France in the cold early dawn of November 4th 1918; when I pass Napier University’s Craiglockhart Campus, I remember how Sassoon and Owen met there, and I think of all the young shell shocked officers who stood on its lawn, looked out over the city, and wondered about their futures; I remember, too, the nurses who held them through their nightmares, gaining their own broken dreams for years to come.

When I catch sight of a single Commonwealth Grave in a cemetery, stark white against the grey stone of the civilian ranks, I remember the parents who must have brought their lad home, and think of them wondering what he would have become. When I see public figures ordered to wear poppies by their managers, I think of those who died ‘for freedom’ and wonder if that’s what they would have wanted.

The thought is there whenever I drive through a Highland village crossroads and see the list of names below the cross on the war memorial, a list that is bigger in number than the houses around.

Visiting the graves of my dad and Joe, I see in my mind the formal picture of them, my teenage dad a Cadet, Joe in his London Rifle Brigade uniform, their eyes signaling a mixture of pride and fear. Whenever I hear a gruff Lancashire accent, I remember my Grandad, still ramrod straight in his 70s, and his unhelpful Gunner’s ‘comfort’ to his wife in the 1941 air raid shelter: “It’s alright, Rose, you won’t hear the one that’ll get you.”

On the shelf I see the film case filled with balls of shrapnel from Ypres, heavier than the space they take up, even when not spewing out of an exploding shell, and I think of the wide eyes of my pupils as they weighed them in their hands, unable to comprehend the reality of the trenches. I think too of those I taught who have gone to their own wars, whose parents became linked to those folk of the last century in worry and pride.

I’m moved always by the last line of Eric Bogle’s ‘The Green Fields of France’: when he tells ‘Young Willie McBride’ that it ‘happened again and again and again’. And even when I think of my career as an English teacher, I know it was the words written by the War Poets that launched me on that trajectory, speaking across the pages and the years.

The word ‘stationmaster’ reminds me of the station house in Shrewsbury, where Owen’s father had that job, and the one in Ors, metres away from the gate of the village cemetery where Owen lies buried.

When I catch an old film starring John Mills, I remember him as Douglas Haig in ‘Oh what a lovely war!’, and the memory is fired up again.

When I clean mud off my boots after a hill walk, I thank God it was accumulated in the pursuit of pleasure not survival.

I have no doubt that over the next five or six years, more than once you will find me standing by the hedgerow of a country road in France or in a muddy field in Belgium, using geography and landscape to remember.

There’s a good chance there will be tears in my eyes and even running down my cheeks. I’ll be crying for Uncle Joe and Grandad, for all the fear they felt and the friends they lost; I’ll be crying for the millions I didn’t know who, one way or another, left their young lives in the trenches of northern Europe.

And I’ll be crying for the men who, a century later, are still using them as political cannon fodder.

Memorial Tablet
by Siegfried Sassoon (1918)

Squire nagged and bullied till I went to fight,
(Under Lord Derby’s scheme). I died in hell -
(They called it Passchendaele). My wound was slight,
And I was hobbling back; and then a shell
Burst slick upon the duckboards: so I fell
Into the bottomless mud, and lost the light
At sermon-time, while Squire is in his pew,
He gives my gilded name a thoughtful stare;
For, though low down upon the list, I’m there;
“In proud and glorious memory” … that’s my due.
Two bleeding years I fought in France, for Squire:
I suffered anguish that he’s never guessed.
I came home on leave: and then went west…
What greater glory could a man desire?


This article was first published on http://blogfeast.wordpress.com/ - it is reproduced with the kind permission of Sean McPartlin

Comments  

 
# From The Suburbs 2012-10-12 23:00
Excellent article.

Cameron can't invade the Falklands to bolster his flagging government but we should resist with all our might his attempts, supported by Labour's Lord Robertson, to celebrate the start of a World War rather than the end of War, which inconveniently comes after the next UK general election.

Linking this to the Jubilee illustrates his attempts to influence the referendum debate in 2014 and we should constantly point out the civil disobedience in Glasgow during the Great War years. One Nation my .....
 
 
# Edna Caine 2012-10-12 23:11
I am loth to comment as I cannot possibly add anything to what Sean has so eloquently said above.

I have e-mailed the Royal British Legion to inform them of my intention to resign my membership. This was in response to a statement on their website supporting the commemoration of the start of the obscenity that was the Great War. They have subsequently amended the statement to include some weasel words about "Remembrance" but it still ends with this comment from Director General Chris Simpkins -

"We saw the UK come together in the unforgettable summer of 2012 through the joyous national celebrations of the Queen's Diamond Jubilee and the Olympic Games," he added. "We believe that the Centenary will bring the nation together once again, perhaps to a more solemn purpose, but one no less unifying."

I still intend to notify my branch chairman of my resignation. [I believe the RBL is distinct from the RBL Scotland, which a totally independent organisation]

Re Eric Bogle's excellent "Green Fields of France", I like this version -

www.youtube.com/.../
 
 
# snowthistle 2012-10-12 23:24
Excellent article.
We should guard against being partisan and politicising this issue. To do so would make us as bad as Mr Cameron. I do not see how in commemorating the start of a war we could avoid glorifying it. Dignified silence on the 11th hour of the 11th day and sober reflection on the futility of this war are the most fitting commemorations.
 
 
# JRTomlin 2012-10-12 23:28
The very concept of celebrating the start of a war in which millions suffered and died is an obscenity, I don't care what your politics.
 
 
# Angus 2012-10-12 23:29
This is so so sad, celebrating the beginning of a war that slaughtered so many millions.
Only the dumb or misguided can support this celebration, no matter what their nationality is.
 
 
# Rabbie 2012-10-12 23:33
Ireland sent 200,000 men tae fecht for the British airmy in France durin the Great War an lost aboot 30,000 deid in the trenches. Daes Cameron really think memories o this is gaun tae mak the Irish feel mair British? Better thegither? A dinnae think sae.
 
 
# tartanfever 2012-10-13 00:34
For a few years now i've chosen a white poppy instead of red. It's a symbol of peace but also a challenge to 'the continual drive to war'.

It may be that some of you might want to remember and pay tribute as we always have done but in a slightly different way, a way in which I personally feel would be much more in keeping with the wishes and prayers of the fallen, that we should never suffer such tragedy again.

You can find out more information here:

www.ppu.org.uk/.../index.html
 
 
# SolTiger 2012-10-13 02:51
This article and the comments put forward my feeling upon hearing about this "celebration of the war" perfectly.

I don't know if I have such close ties to the war as Mr McPartlin but even at an early age studying WW1 at school I knew how wrong it was. How there were no "good guys" in this story. This was undoubtedly reinforced by pieces of war poetry which cropped up during English classes a few years later.

Becoming older, and probably far too cynical for someone in his 20s, and seeing other wars fought for just as meaningless reasons just makes thinking back to WW1 and the lies told which cost so many their lives even more difficult.

As others have said, celebrating it as some kind of "great moment of britishness" is warped for a number of reasons.

The added aspect that it may be as some kind of opposition to Scottish Independence immediately made me think of Ireland just as Rabbie points out.

Will they just be forgetting about Ireland to push some false picture of a "United" Kingdom? Even if they don't it will still be little short of offensive, even more so here considering the extent of Scottish losses.
 
 
# graememcallan 2012-10-13 03:24
Thank you, Sean, for this - clear, thoughtful and passionate - I too am a fan of the WWI poets, and war saddens me, it always will.

You have made Uncle Joe proud, my friend.
 
 
# border reiver 2012-10-13 05:10
No doubt Cameron is using this as another flag waving occasion for his own ends. It should be pointed out that Scots disproportionat ely suffered a far greater loss as 26% of Scotsmen who joined up died in uniform compared to 12% for the rest of the British army. irishtimes.com/.../...
 
 
# Kurokami 2012-10-13 10:58
Border with respect I do not think it should be pointed out; Saying a bigger % Scots than English died will not help and with the MSM behind this it will be imo very difficult to counter but we should focus on the present and how Cameron is using the dead for politics rather than the past and who lost the most
 
 
# Leader of the Pack 2012-10-13 05:52
People like Cameron dont understand the concept of sacrifice. Its what other people do to make his life easier. "Making hard choices" is the Tory buzz words which epitomises this ignorance. the hard choices are what other people must endure to make their lives easier. Whether its taking the country to war on lame excuses and lies or forcing through unpalatable policy and cuts its the same "sacrifices" the same "hard choices" the same sections of society have to endure to make other lives easier and more prosperous. That is the ideology of Conservatism which is now being officially embraced by the "Socialist" Labour party and the so called "Liberal Democrats" You make the sacrifces we reep the rewards. And those who continue to make the sacrifices continue to blindly vote for its continuation because they cant see past their next fag packet or pint of lager or Womans Own magazine. No wonder the Tories think we're nothing but cannon fodder and plebs.
 
 
# G.Macp 2012-10-13 07:03
I have read many really good articles on NNS but this must be one of the best!
Thanks for taking the time to write it Sean!
Cameron should hang his head in shame!
 
 
# davemsc 2012-10-13 07:13
What a moving and powerful piece. Clearly Cameron fails to understand the utter futility of war, and the crass suggestion that we should celebrate the start of one of the bloodiest conflicts the world has ever seen is nothing more than a gross insult to those who were sent to their deaths.
 
 
# RaboRuglen 2012-10-13 07:15
Hi there,

As a child in the 50's I remember an old man who lived across the street from us who was wounded in the "Great" war. I still recall being in the street and hearing his cries of pain as his wound dressings were changed by the visiting nurse, almost forty years after they were inflicted.

I remember growing up surrounded by old spinster women whose "young men" were lost in battle and who had no opportunity ever to marry. Old, sour, sad, lonely women who made our children's lives a misery with their constant "checking" our street play by rapping on their windows because they had nothing else to do after being forced to retire from mainly menial jobs at fifty.

"Great" war. My arse.

Regards,
 
 
# BillCo 2012-10-13 08:18
My mother lost two uncles at Passchendaele. Her mother's hair went white over night from the shock.

The old man who owned the Bicycle Shop in Raeburn Place, Edinburgh in the 1950's when I was a kid was in continual pain from the bits of shrapnel he carried around in his legs from Flanders.

Neither my granny nor my mother nor old 'bike man' would have relished the thought that a Prime Minister would have proposed commemorating the start of a conflict fought in the very fires of hell.

I reckoned Cameron was an opportunist when I first clapped eyes on him. This announcement proves it.

25% of all Scots who fought in WWI lost their lives compared to 11% for the rest of the UK. Scotland does not have a stomach for jingoistic flag waving British Nationalism.
 
 
# Bambi 2012-10-13 08:04
Great piece.
The most telling political point is the observation of Cameron & Co's banality and lack of historical sensibility, not surprising from one whose sycophancy to the USA stretched to promoting them to senior partner in 1940. The most depressing prospect is that this kind of banality may have enough resonance to win in 2014.
 
 
# mountaincadre 2012-10-13 08:07
Thank you Sean, if there is anyone who has any dought as to just how ruthless the british state can be then think of this article, it makes me sad to think of the pointlessness of that war, the absolute misery of it, what makes it hurt so much more and for the anger to rise though is that they are being used even in death by the offspring of the very people who sent them to there deaths in the first place. I have noticed over the last couple of weeks posters seem to be getting a little worried about polls and suchlike, i like many others posters am doing this for my children and grand children, perhaps we should remember to also do it for those who cannot speak for themselves but who's voices scream at us through time.
 
 
# Clydebuilt 2012-10-13 20:42
Quoting mountaincadre:
we should remember to also do it for those who cannot speak for themselves but who's voices scream at us through time.


Great words.
 
 
# Annickburn 2012-10-13 08:23
Extremely moving article .
It brings back the feelings I had when after locating and visiting the grave of a great uncle in a small graveyard, located at the back of a farm, in the middle of a field in France I was overcome with grief, not so much for the man I never knew but for the life he and his family was denied. The silence surrounding us was only disturbed by the team of French gardeners who arrived, one of whom had the surname McDonald, they asked us about our relative and we thanked them for their work. Winding our way back through the hedgerows to the main road I couldn't help but notice the number of small graveyards dotted about each immaculately kempt I was grateful for that but still saddened for the wasteful lives lost.
 
 
# Ready to Start 2012-10-13 08:30
AS evidenced on Letterman Show, Cameron has no great knowledge of history.

During the "Great WAr" there were industrial and rent strikes in Glasgow. The Labour "Forward" newspaper was suppressed and shop stewards deported from the West of Scotland.

The cannon fodder that survived, Scottish regiments were more frequently sent over the trenches first, were treated badly by the UK government... no homes for heroes and massive emigration ensued as there was no work for returning soldiers.
 
 
# BillCo 2012-10-13 08:52
The great Clydeside socialist, John Maclean, made a powerful speech to a huge gathering on Glasgow Green in the early days of the war, in which he called for an Armistice. He pointed out in strong and articulate terms that it would be the ordinary working men of Germany and Britain who would be fighting and dying in a war driven by capitalist and imperialist ambitions. Over the course of the war he was imprisoned on five occasions for 'sedition' in trying to persuade the working men of Scotland to stand up to the Government and refuse to be conscripted for active service. Karl Liebknecht was imprisoned in Germany for his similar stance against the war.

When Maclean was finally released from prison he was welcomed back to Glasgow as a hero to a tumultuous welcome.

Here is Maclean's letter, dated 26 September 1914, to 'Forward' on the subject of the war. Some of his predicitions were wide of the mark but the general thrust of his argument holds water to this day.

gdl.cdlr.strath.ac.uk/.../...

Here also is a rendition of Hamish Henderson's wonderful song, 'John Maclean March' sung by Alistair Hulett.

www.youtube.com/.../
 
 
# Jake62 2012-10-13 08:42
"Alan Bennett famously wrote: “History? It’s just one fuckin thing after another"

I prefer Sam Goldwyn's earlier . .

"Life is just one damned thing after another"

;)
 
 
# Indy_Scot 2012-10-13 08:43
Clearly this is a pathetic attempt by David Cameron to get people waving the union flag in the run up to the Scottish Referendum in the hope of reducing support for Independence.

I believe this will backfire on Cameron, as I do not think many people will genuinely wish to celebrate the start of an event that lead to the death of so many people.

It is one thing to do this in error, it is quite another to do it for political gain. He is a very sick individual indeed.
 
 
# mealer 2012-10-13 08:49
I needed three goes to finish reading this article.It made me so sad,and so angry.An excellent piece of writing.
I want no part of any celebration of the start of a blood bath.It goes against everything that I am.
 
 
# gedguy2 2012-10-13 08:49
Isn't it strange that we have ALWAYS celebrated the END of war but now, David Cameron, has decided to spend £50 million to celebrate the start of WWI. Now what could possibly be happening in 2014 for the UK PM to waste this amount of money in such hard times? Don't know? Let me tell you; the Scottish referendum.
 
 
# Robabody 2012-10-13 08:49
Like the author I have wander far and wide in the Straths, glens and hills of our country and even in the most remote corners of it, you’ll find a monument to the sacrifice. Too great a sacrifice for what was nothing more than a family squabble over empire.
It is truly revolting, but not in the least surprising, that the jingoistic warmongers of Westminster would want to use the start of this war as some sort of celebration. The celebration of the start of the death of millions, anyone associated with it is beyond the pale.
 
 
# RTP 2012-10-13 08:50
"Remembrance Day (also known as Poppy Day or Armistice Day) is a memorial day observed in Commonwealth countries since the end of World War I to remember the members of their armed forces who have died in the line of duty. This day, or alternative dates, are also recognized as special days for war remembrances in many non-Commonwealth countries. Remembrance Day is observed on 11 November to recall the end of hostilities of World War I on that date in 1918. Hostilities formally ended "at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month,

What Cameron is suggesting is disgusting what would all the people on both sides who died in this war think if they knew the start of war was to be commemorated.
I for one will not celebrate the loss of many of my family in both wars for Cameron.
 
 
# DoricBob 2012-10-13 09:05
May I remind you of the political debates before the last general election when the opinions of Scotland was totally sidelined by the MSM? This is what will happen again as regards any of our protests about this obvious political chicanary. We'll be ignored, "sour grapes" and "noses out of joint," will be the cry as the unionist propaganda steamroller rolls on, Aided and abetted by our own Scottish media. It's a bloody disgust!!
 
 
# gus1940 2012-10-13 09:05
If only it were a condition on winning election to Pariament that all MP's prior to taking up their seats had to visit Tynecot and Langemark Cemeteries and Memorials such as The Menin Gate, Thiepval, Vimy Ridge and Newfoundland Park perhaps there would be less enthusiasm for war as a solution to international problems.

It would also be a help if a framed copy of Sean McPartlin's article be nailed to the wall facing all MP's as they sat at their desks.

I shall be returning for a 6th. time to Belgium and France in 2014 (if not before) to commemorate and pay my respect yet again to the dead of ALL sides in the most futile conflict in the history of the world.
 
 
# dodgardiner 2012-10-13 11:25
Personally i'd go further - anyone voting to commit us to war must either be prepared to serve themselves or send an immediate member of their family to be slaughtered for the noble cause.
Think that might concentrate the minds a bit more.
 
 
# hiorta 2012-10-13 09:35
The only 'great' war will have those who want it and those cardboard soldiers of the 'street parade platoons' firmly placed in the front rank.
 
 
# megabreath 2012-10-13 09:56
tremendous article giving voice to sentiments I seriously doubt Cameron has any understanding of.Cameron is a fool and I seriously doubt this "commemoration" will get off the ground.the man is a unprincipled opportunist.
 
 
# clootie 2012-10-13 09:58
What a moving article. My thoughts have been expressed by many above.
 
 
# Diabloandco 2012-10-13 10:02
Thank you for the article , it has made me dig out my copy of war poetry,festoone d with poppies and sadness.
 
 
# X_Sticks 2012-10-13 10:46
The question from David Cameron: "What can we celebrate in 2014 to counter the Scottish move to independence?"

Answer: We can use the outbreak of WW1 as an excuse to wave the union flag. We can also use this excuse to spend a lot of tax-payers money to bolster the No to Independence campaign.

My grandmother lost three of her four brothers in WW1. She could never talk about it without tears coming to her eyes. Their loss was one of the last things she remembered before she died. The pain never left her.

I am truly disgusted by the utter cynisism of Cameron and his mob to try and use this as a political tool, and I have no doubt that our referendum is the sole driver of this tactic.

They should be utterly ashamed of themselves.
 
 
# drumsmudden 2012-10-13 11:22
The officer classes suffering shell shock were nursed in the bosoms of the caring nurses----the plebs with the same problem were put up against a wall and shot.
Would it be any different today if they could get away with it, I think not.
 
 
# Edna Caine 2012-10-13 20:03
306 servicemen were executed for having PTSD in the First World War.

Officers - 2 (One in the RNVR)
NCOs - 24
Others - 280

They finally received a "pardon" in 2006

www.historylearningsite.co.uk/.../

"In the duration of the war, fifteen officers, sentenced to death, received a royal pardon. In the summer of 1916, all officers of the rank of captain and above were given an order that all cases of cowardice should be punished by death and that a medical excuse should not be tolerated. However, this was not the case if officers were found to be suffering from neurasthenia."
 
 
# The Tree of Liberty 2012-10-13 11:56
I came across this yesterday: Also 25 September 1915: three brothers serving in different units - and a fourth died later
James, 28, Matthew, 21, and Robert Mochrie, 19, all died during the Battle of Loos while serving with different units. Matthew was with 9th Cameronians and Robert with 6th Royal Scots. James, serving with E Company of the 2nd Gordon Highlanders, was a regular soldier who enlisted on 30 January 1907. He was reported wounded and missing and it was not until 18 September 1916 that his parents were finally informed that he was presumed to have died on or since that date. Sons of Andrew and Margaret Mochrie of 9 Glasgow Street, Kilbirnie, Ayrshire, Robert was the husband of Louise Rieper (formerly Mochrie) of Ward Street, Raetihi, New Zealand. The brothers have no known graves and are all commemorated on the Loos Memorial to the Missing. As if this was not bad enough, a fourth son, 38 year old Andrew, was killed with 9th Cameronians on 9 June 1917. He also has no known grave and is listed on the Arras Memorial.
Submitted by Carolyn Morrisey
 
 
# balgayboy 2012-10-13 12:14
Does anyone have any historical information of the present UK Cabinet's forefathers participation in WW1, would be nice to know that we were are all in it together!
 
 
# red kite 2012-10-13 12:25
My grandmother's brother was killed on his first day in France in 1916. His mother spent the rest of the war at railway stations asking everyone in uniform if they had seen him. She never locked the house door until her death just before the start of the second war, in case he came home at night or when she was out.
Thank you Sean for the very effective article on this. "We" the ordinary people of the day were used and abused by those in power, cynically and for their own gain. "Never again" was the cry which is becoming forgotten.
As a boy I remember the number of old ladies who were called Miss So-and-so, and having it explained that their husbands and boyfriends had all been killed a lifetime ago. Lives destroyed forever for what ?
As someone else said above, the number of names on the war memorial was shocking, even to a young lad, comparing that to the number of people in the village.
No Mr Cameron, no "celebrations" - we will remember them, but we will not glorify the donkeys who led the lions. We will not jingoistically wave the flag of empire. It was certainly "The Great War", but because of powerful people like you Mr Cameron, it was never the war to end all wars.
This was medieval battling between cousins at its zenith, the Kaiser, the King, the Czar were first cousins and knew each other on first name terms. They even had the same stupid statements as John Reid made about Afghanistan : they'll be home before Christmas without a shot being fired. We hear the same stupid phrases today when those in power screw up : lessons will be learnt.
No, lessons have not been learned. Eejits are still in power. The donkeys in Whitehall and Westminster still believe we are lions to be commanded by them.

We will remember the sacrifices and futilities of that and other conflicts. We will not commemorate them.
 
 
# balgayboy 2012-10-13 12:46
Spot on my friend. The real truth about the reason for WW1 needs to out and the politicians that are intent on celebrating the START of that war need to answer their reasons for their planned celebration to the people who lost their relatives in a totally imperialistic and unnecessary war. Where has humanity gone?
 
 
# Dunnichen685 2012-10-13 20:03
Slightly O/T but this excellent thought provoking documentary about the history of foreign intervention in Afghanistan is well worth watching.

m.youtube.com/.../

Just think, with independance Scottish soldiers will no longer be sent to there deaths in pointless foreign wars, such as Iraq and Afghanistan.
 
 
# Bill C 2012-10-13 12:54
The Tories are having a sick joke here. As the man said “Let me tell you a story”. My two great uncles marched off to the ‘War to end all Wars’. They both fought with the Gordon Highlanders and they were both killed. Obviously the family were devastated, but worse was to follow. Both of their families farmed crofts on land owned by a “German Lairdie” in the North East of Scotland. Following the deaths of my great uncles who were killed for King and Country. The ‘King’s Shilling’ stopped arriving and the families were left with no income. Needless to say the ‘German Lairdie” back in Germany being an astute businessman, could not tolerate the situation of not being paid his rent and thus felt duty bound to evict both families from their crofts. Hence the two families not only lost their breadwinners but their entire way of life.
The moral of the story? There is nothing to celebrate in the grief and misery of millions of working class Europeans; while their so called betters lined their pockets, making money from arms deals, land grabbing and capitalist speculation.
Cameron you insult the memory of millions with your tawdry Brit fest!
 
 
# Talorcan 2012-10-13 13:42
People talk about the 'Clearances' and how it devastated the Highlands and Islands of Scotland. They were absolutely nothing compared to what happened to the Gaeltachd during that war. The Gaelic language and culture has never recovered from the loss of so many Gaelic speakers from the straths and glens. They died in their tens of thousands for absolutely nothing.
The deperessing thing is that there are islanders today who still will not vote for an independent Scotland and who prefer to see themselves as British rather than Scots. It is for me completely incomprehensibl e that they should be so blinkered. Thank God for the smart ones that vote SNP.
 
 
# Desperate Dora 2012-10-13 14:23
Sean's article is very moving, but some of the comments which follow are more moving still. The story of the Mochrie family is desperately sad. It made me look around my family and consider how many of them would have had to fight had they been living 100 years ago. Then I thought of the terrors they would have had to endure.Then I wondered how many of them would have been killed. There but for the grace of god. Finally, I wondered what kind of sick, insensitive mind could possibly think it had the right to take our personal, private grief, attach it to a Union Jack and put it up for public display. They thought they owned us then....and they think they own us now.
 
 
# brusque 2012-10-13 14:44
I have little to add to the many moving comments above.

Except to add that the Gallipoli campaign was the first major battle undertaken by the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC), and is often considered to mark the birth of national consciousness in both of these countries. Anzac Day, 25 April, remains the most significant commemoration of military casualties and veterans in Australia and New Zealand, surpassing Armistice Day/Remembrance Day.
 
 
# curley bill 2012-10-13 19:58
Although Gallipoli is often portrayed as an Anzac campaign, it should not be forgotten that some of our countrymen were there too.
The Cameronians (Scottish Rifles) sent two full battalions, the 7th and 8th, and when they withdrew they couldn't even make one battalion with what was left.
And, it should be noted, it was the Cameronians who were last on the boats as they formed the rearguard (as did the Highland Division at Dunkirk - a bit of a pattern here - and they were left).
Also regarding Eric Bogle, while I admire 'The Green Fields of France' I think his other composition 'And The Band Played Waltzing Matilda' takes some beating.
 
 
# brusque 2012-10-14 23:27
Quoting curley bill:
Although Gallipoli is often portrayed as an Anzac campaign, it should not be forgotten that some of our countrymen were there too..



My apologies Curley Bill, I was simply highlighting the fact that The Anzac Day Remembrance has been part of the history of Australia and New Zealand for many years.
 
 
# curley bill 2012-10-15 18:50
No apology necessary.
I know about the Cams being there because my papa was one of them
 
 
# chicmac 2012-10-15 19:41
My favourite anti-war song of his is "All the Fine Young Men".
 
 
# Alan 2012-10-13 17:17
"In Glesga toun the wird went roond, tak tent o John Maclean. He said a bayonet, that's a wappen wi a wirkin man at aither end."
 
 
# BillCo 2012-10-13 18:59
'Don't Sign Up for War'

www.youtube.com/.../
 
 
# Fungus 2012-10-13 17:20
I think this powerful article has made us all think. In my case of the teacher, when I was in primary school, telling is about advancing through the mud into machine gun bullets then being led, weeping, from the class by another teacher never to be seen again. Or the man who worked with my father. Was in sentry duty just before the start of the Somme, looked through his periscope and saw Germans holding the same church service to the same God as was being held in the trench behind him. Two days later he was an atheist.
My father fighting the Japaneese, my father in law a commando, my father's cousin who fought in every theater in WW2 until he had to crawl two miles to safety with 7 machine gun bullets in him. My mother's cousin on a hillside in Korea surrounded by Chineese and resorting to drinking his own urine. A friend being blown to buggery by an Argentine mortar rescuing wounded on Mount Tumbledown, my niece's husband under SCUD attack in the middle east, a young man of my acquaintance doing 3 tours in Helmund. Indeed if it had not been for McMillan I could well have been shipped to Vietnam.

What's to celebrate?
 
 
# oldnat 2012-10-13 18:47
I have signed this petition "

To cancel centenary celebrations of the START of the First World War, and celebrate the centenary of the END."

epetitions.direct.gov.uk/.../...
 
 
# scottish_skier 2012-10-13 19:14
Signed.

Dave comparing this event to the Jubilee was truly sickening.
 
 
# expat67 2012-10-13 21:35
Petition signed!!
 
 
# cynicalHighlander 2012-10-13 22:10
Signed and passed on elsewhere.
 
 
# Robabody 2012-10-14 10:44
signed - with great and grim pleasure
 
 
# Giles 2012-10-13 19:10
Signed the petition.
 
 
# Leswil 2012-10-13 19:38
What strikes me about the tragic campaigns in both world wars. The human beings suffer for little reason.

Politicians tell the forces what to do, with little idea of what is involved.

Just to show how Politicians feed off the blood of the brave, let us have a look at a proclaimed "miracle", that was Dunkirk.

Yes, very many troops were rescued against the odds. However, the real story was that it was no "miracle" it was a sacrifice.

What Churchill did not advertise when taking the credit was a force called the 51st Highland Division.

They were the troops left in the rear of the UK army when retreating to the sea for evacuation.
The Scots fought and held back the Germans and made escape possible for the British Army.

They fought the full advance of the German forces, until they had no more ammunition to fight with, they were surrounded and had to surrender or die.

I know this because my father was in the 51st in the Gordon Highlanders, he was only one of thousands captured, he was sixteen years old.

My father was something different, he escaped from that field then went on to have many adventures dodging Germans and the French Vichy, eventually getting the "Military Medal" from the King at Buckingham Palace.

He was lucky in a way, others spend the rest of the war forced to work in the German war effort.

The point is, Churchill proclaimed his miracle, but little or nothing was said about the sacrifices of the 51st Highland Division, and so it is with politicians who never need to go near a front line.

Funny how Scots have had this said very often about them,that they are usually first in and last out. Some may say cannon fodder. I guess I will keep my thoughts to myself on that one.
 
 
# gus1940 2012-10-14 11:02
And if France hadn't capitulated when they did the 52nd. Lowland Division would have been similarly sacrificed further south.
 
 
# Richardmci 2012-10-13 19:46
Signed.
 
 
# Caledon 2012-10-13 20:06
Signed and shared on FB.

That Cameron would implement this preposterous centenary celebration of the start of the First World War is utterly beyond my comprehension. Who in their right mind would celebrate the start of any war.
Thank you for posting this most moving and sad article. Also thanks for all the wonderful and moving comments above.
 
 
# Kurokami 2012-10-13 20:12
signed as did all the family
 
 
# call me dave 2012-10-13 21:47
signed it too.
 
 
# Ben Power 2012-10-13 21:48
I've signed the petition and passed it on as well.
Thank you very much for the article, the NNS comments and the petition. My family as well as so many other families lost both members and a deep personal sense of well being as a result of that war. We should not be commemorating the start of it.
 
 
# oldnat 2012-10-13 23:42
My Dad aimed 25 lb artillery at the Germans in North Africa and Italy.

When I went to my first Remembrance Day Parade in the 1950s, he said I should think of those he might have killed, as well as those on our side.

Wise man my Dad.
 
 
# X_Sticks 2012-10-14 01:12
Now I know where you get it from!
 
 
# Roll_On_2011 2012-10-14 04:16
X_Sticks

“ Now I know where you get it from! “

Hear, hear… Seconded
 
 
# HighlandBark 2012-10-14 12:19
My Dad drove tanks in North Africa and Italy. I have his medals. However, were he still alive, he would be seething at my stance on independence. Even as a kid, in '52, he would make me stand everytime the National Anthem was played on the radio, (no telly then!). My chum's Dad was pro-SNP and anti-Liz II, so the old man would rant about that.
 
 
# graememcallan 2012-10-14 01:54
Signed
 
 
# Roll_On_2011 2012-10-14 04:01
.
Another Time, another War - IRAQ Today:

independent.co.uk/.../...

“ High rates of miscarriage, toxic levels of lead and mercury contamination and spiralling numbers of birth defects ranging from congenital heart defects to brain dysfunctions and malformed limbs have been recorded. Even more disturbingly, they appear to be occurring at an increasing rate in children born in Fallujah, about 40 miles west of Baghdad.

There is "compelling evidence" to link the increased numbers of defects and miscarriages to military assaults, says Mozhgan Savabieasfahani , one of the lead authors of the report and an environmental toxicologist at the University of Michigan's School of Public Health. Similar defects have been found among children born in Basra after British troops invaded, according to the new research. “
 
 
# Davy 2012-10-14 08:09
signed
 
 
# BillCo 2012-10-14 08:57
Signed
 
 
# Wullie B 2012-10-14 09:56
As an Ex Queens own Highlander,I am disgusted by the idea of the |Unionists celebrating the start of the greatest manslaughter of recent times and have duly signed the e petition as well as shared it on my facebook
 
 
# Breeks 2012-10-14 11:04
I'd prefer to leave the details of commemoration with the British Legion.

To be completely honest I'd rather the £50million was spent addressing the chaos behind equiping our troops on the front line today.

guardian.co.uk/.../...

But that does not mean paying a private contractor to do it. -
guardian.co.uk/.../...
 
 
# Edna Caine 2012-10-14 17:57
"I'd prefer to leave the details of commemoration with the British Legion."

I'd not.

britishlegion.org.uk/.../...

Read the last paragraph. As a member of the RBL I am disgusted.
 
 
# RTP 2012-10-14 21:00
Signed
 
 
# Will C 2012-10-14 21:04
Signed and and shared on Facebook. Leswil and Gus 1940 have highlighted one of the greatest examples of how Scottish troops are regarded as cannon fodder by Westminster. My uncle was captured at St. Valery (near Dunkirk)in May of 1940 and spent 5 years in a Stalag. He was forced marched in winter from Poland and only managed to survive the war thanks to crops in the fields and handouts from kindly German civilians.
He died of leukemia some years ago but he never forgave or forgot the betrayal of the 51st Highland Division. That chapter of the Dunkirk story is conveniently forgotten by those who glorify the escape at Dunkirk. There is nothing to celebrate in war.
 
 
# Leswil 2012-10-15 17:40
Will C,
It was in fact St Valery where my father was captured. Fortunately for him, he was not captured for long! He could so easily have followed the path of your Uncle and many more brave men.

( My mother had her own spin on this, she would say " Huh, they did not want him either!" She was joking, I think!!
 

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