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Monday, 4 August 2014

Celebration of carnage?

Today, as we have all been reminded, is the 100th anniversary of the beginning of the Great War - later known as World War 1.  However, I find a few things confusing.  First of all, if one wishes to commemorate the first shot of the War, then a valid case may be made for observing this on June 28th, the date on which Gavrilo Princip fired his fatal shots at the Austro-Hungarian Archduke Franz Ferdinand, and his wife Sophie. 

The first declaration of war was one month later, when Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia and, on the following day, commenced a series of unsuccessful attempts to invade it.

Today's date is the anniversary of the German invasion of neutral Belgium, leading to the Battle of Liege which ran for twelve days from 5-16 August 1914, and resulted in surprisingly heavy losses upon the German invasion force by the numerically heavily outnumbered Belgians.  It is also the anniversary of the British declaration of war against Germany, because of its violation of the Belgians' neutrality.

So, if one must commemorate the beginning of a war, there are actually a number of possible dates for this particular conflict.

However, I suppose that my main concern is to do with why we are commemorating the beginning of a period of such destruction and carnage.  By all means let us have a quiet reminder - as we probably ought to have every year - but not lavish ceremonies for the so-called élite of society, many of whom, as far as I could make out, have never seen active service!   Surely it is the end of such a terrible episode in the recent history of mankind that we should remember - as we do every year on Nov.11th!

I am unaware of any of my own family members who died in the "war to end all wars", so perhaps that does colour my perspective.  However, I still fear that the anniversary - and the next four years - has been, and will be, hijacked by some for political ends.  That would be dishonouring to the memory of those who died seeking to protect their loved ones, and their countries.  It is, after all, the political and ruling classes who cause war.  The 'ordinary soldier' is the one who suffers!

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