|In This Triumph We Killed All of Your Sons, Husbands and Fathers Over There|
Somewhere this date is accepted as the beginning of the Great War.
And, we're prepared to do it again to establish our legitimacy.
Unelected Kaisers of the New Central European Hegemony must know no boundaries.
Welcome to Belgium 4.0
"Where their men and boys died" Flanders Field Museum. Also found in the Imperial War Museum, London.ReplyDelete
Upon the cessation of the Great War, families of the missing (the rich, and the privileged with the right connections) made their way across to Belgium and France to see where their own men and boys were last reported alive-or were temporarily buried. The British War office eventually became powerless to stop such visits, though they did try (and failed miserably) as the WO propaganda machine was only effective in covering up the truth whilst the war continued. Story's soon leaked out about the true loss and carnage, as well as those 'shot at dawn' for desertion or cowardice. (This was previously denied in 1915 by a WO 'Minister of Parliament' in the House of Commons.)
After the war all armies made their files on the executions Top Secret. Obviously rumours were rife, and eventually the truth leaked out slowly over a few executions. Only over the last several years have some of the archives have been opened and now, slowly, thanks to the efforts of independent researchers and journalists, the stories have become public.
We now know that British court martials had 306 soldiers shot at dawn.
The French army executed more than 600 soldiers. Little known was the French order of decimation (the shooting of every tenth person in a unit) of the 10e Compagnie of 8 Battalion of the Régiment Mixte de Tirailleurs Algériens. Which happened during the retreat at the beginning of the war when French-African soldiers refused an order to attack. They were shot on the 15th of December 1914 near Zillebeeke in Flanders. Between April 1917 and November 1918.
American court-martials sentenced 24 American deserters to death. None were actually shot. Stragglers and deserters were often publicly humiliated instead.
From the German army about 150,000 soldiers deserted. Most of them fled to the neutral Netherlands, Denmark and Switzerland. From those caught no more than 18 were executed (compare this to the 10.000 deserters Germany shot in WWII.)
The true horror's of war that had previously been suppressed were leaked out through British left wing newspapers, which brought forth family members for day trips as well as weekend visits, all in the hope of finding loved ones. After the war Rudyard Kipling visited the battlefields and wargraves in Flanders in the hope of finding his 18-year old son who was reported 'wounded and missing.' Racked with guilt he later wrote "If any ask us why we died. Tell them 'Because our fathers lied". Second Lieutenant John Kipling's body was discovered in 1992, in the grave of an 'unknown Irish lieutenant.'
1919 saw the infancy of the Belgium/France battlefield tours that soon became a pilgrimage for British families. The trip across the English Channel being quite simple as a regular steam train service run from London direct to Dover's sea port.
Nobody alive today can write more movingly about the slaughter of youth back then. Nobody alive understands the numbers involved in the two paroxysms of unhating carnage that were the World Wars. There were a million casualties at the Battle of the Somme, more at Verdun. There were almost as many at the Marne and Loos. Buck wrote about an air force we lost over Germany which suffered more than 100% casualties.Delete
I wrote to you earlier about standing there at a second hand book shop in the Tottenham Court Road with a stack of books that reached waist high on me that contained NOTHING but the names, ranks, regiments of the British War Dead in the Great War.
That was the first war that saw the loss of the members of Britain's great families. Thousands vanished in the mire without any result and with nothing, not even a telegram. They simply vanished into the muck alongside millions of others. Of course their interest would make anybody wonder. When the 12th Earl of this and the Duke of Ma perish in a bog, their families will wonder. So too did millions and millions of others.
Knowing what I know, I would still have gone to see; it is a duty to see and to care, but I mind the words of a man I knew who was at Tenerife long ago who told me that only a complete madman would allow any, especially family, to go the site of an air disaster like that. He said he'd run if anybody tried to get him to endure that pain again. He was EOD, and a peer. I take him at his word.
In a democracy like ours, war should not ever proceed without the scrutiny of those who are sent to serve and the detailed scrutiny of the field by their parents. The Western Front will last forever as the fucked up murder machine of the generals and politicians in charge. The generals and the politicians killed civilization. They could never get away with such a thing in our time.
Thank you for the caption of the original photo. If it means ought to you, that would be Courtney Massengale recounting the tragedy to the women and fathers that lost the ones they loved. If you read anything at all on war, I always recommend, "Once An Eagle" and "Exodus" by Leon Uris. Both put a face on war that should serve us all. And, for the slow readers, you can bet your life there are many things worthy of fighting and dying for. I've fought for a number of them.
One of the things that made such losses in WW II (and our Civil War bloodletting which preceded it) "bearable" (if such can be said) was the large size of families which usually meant that there were younger sons and daughters to "carry on." Now the avg is 1.2 children/fam and public tolerance of such losses would be to think the unthinkable. IIRC in the Battle of the Somme tot casualties were 60,000 the first day with 24,000 in the first hour w. 12, 000 dead..ReplyDelete
The losses even then must have been viewed as staggering. A million men were killed or wounded in the battle which lasted almost 5 months. All of them for no purpose. They were fed into a meat grinder and suffered greatly and only their immediate families mourned their loss. Their governments simply drafted more boys and men to kill.Delete
A lot of us have been in the rifle pits at the bullet end of the shooting range and as you stand there in that trench watching the bullets of your mates tear into the paper targets over your head you get a tiny idea of what it must have been like to simply climb the wall closest to the enemy guns and advance into that kind of death. It must have been the most bitter resignation to learn that life at 18 years boiled down to this kind of suicide.