Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori

Today we mourn the many dead in two world wars, and other conflicts. We admire their bravery. We thank them for their sacrifice. We remember they died to keep us free.

Today we mourn without members who fought in the 1st World War to tell us of its horrors. We have memorable poetry from the trenches, many moving memoirs and accounts, and blood stained histories of a war that turned into a mass slaughter. It was the war of the machine age, the war when defensive weaponry was usually too powerful for attacking forces. It was a war of years of stalemate in grim trenches.

From my boyhood onwards I have read and watched accounts of those murderous WW1 battles. Each time I have come to share the common conclusion that it was lions led by donkeys. I have tried hard to understand how it could have been allowed to happen. I realise that some intelligence was applied, as senior officers and strategists wrestled with how to overcome the mighty power of the machine gun, artillery and shells, mines and barbed wire. I see they tried heavy bombardments to make a dash across No man’s land safer. The tried undermining and blowing up opposing lines. They developed tanks, which helped. They resorted to gas and flame weapons to try to break the deadlock of the western front. I still cannot accept the way the politicians and generals accepted death on such a huge scale. They often asked their juniors to run into the guns as if their lives did not matter, or as if the result would be different from when the last waves of young men had tried it. It was not how Wellington would have handled it, always keen to keep his force together and to minimise causualties.

I developed more of a dislike of the politicians who thought this was a necessary and worthwhile war. The first war lacked the cause that a hated ideology and the fanatical treatment of non Germans by Hitler gave to the second. It lacked the sense that the UK had to stand alone and fight to preserve her independence from tyranny that the nation shared in 1940. In 1914 the Uk went to war over the Balkans and ended up fighting shoulder to shoulder with France in what was yet another Franco-German dispute. The Uk could have stayed out of it, safe in the knowledge that her mighty navy shielded the homeland from threat and her Empire offered her trade and commercial interests.

If there was a strand of common policy that provided some justification in the twentieth century it was the wish to avoid any single power dominating the continent. How ironic that today the UK’s foreign policy seems based on encouraging France and Germany to unite, when the twentieth century saw us fight two huge wars to prevent just such an outcome. We can be proud of and grateful to our armed forces. We should pause to ask if the politicians spent too many lives and too much treasure in European interventions.


  1. Single Acts
    November 13, 2011

    The murderous thing about early WW1 tactics was of course that ever since the confederate assault on cemetery ridge, known as Pickett’s charge, it was obvious that full frontal infantry assaults were doomed. The imperial general staff would have known this had any of them cared to think.

    That was 1863. More than fifty years later when far better rifles, barbed wire and machine guns were available, they were even less likely to be successful, yet still we had the Somme and many other bloody assaults.

    It would be a fitting tribute to these men to say that we have learned our lessons and no longer engage in pointless conflicts sending more of our young men (and now women) out to die futile deaths. I wish we could say it.

    1. zorro
      November 13, 2011

      Very true…trying to cross open ground in good order in the face of cannon fire/canister is not very advisable.

      However, doubtless the British Army always dwells more on its disasters….so they probably remembered Islandwhana and thought how could a native army kill over 1,000 British soldiers in a defensive position. Then they probably thought that it was possible to take a heavily defended position…..


    2. figurewizard
      November 14, 2011

      General Sir Henry Rawlinson learned the lessons from the Somme. That is why, as commander during the battle of Amiens in 1918 he achieved a stunning victory that marked the beginning of the end of WW1. By integrating infantry, tanks, aircraft (600 of them) and even cavalry in a rapid and remorseless series of attacks he crushed the German front in less than a week.

      These lessons were not forgotten either; by the Germans that is. They called it Blitzkrieg. We forgot however and paid a heavy price for it.

  2. Antisthenes
    November 13, 2011

    History is full of lessons so often never learnt and repeated ad nauseum with often tragic consequences like WWI. We have seen the results of following certain paths from the past and the present yet we still follow them even when they lead to failure. The EU and euro are examples of this, we know from the past that putting a group of dissimilar cultures together to form one nation does not work they have always broken apart again eventually often with serious consequences. Once again we have allowed donkeys to lead lions as unelected presidents, bureaucrats and commissioners have thrown the economies of member nations onto the guns of misfortune. And now those same donkeys are being put in charge of nations whose economies they have helped to undermine. These donkeys go by the name of technocrats but they are still donkeys what ever new name they are given.

  3. Mike Stallard
    November 13, 2011

    In the 1920s an awful lot of people wrote an awful lot of stuff about how terrible the First World War was. And indeed, for the three or so days a week when they were in the tranches and for those “chums” who went into battle and were annihilated, taking with them whole towns into mourning, it really was.
    But we should also remember that the Generals realised that the Somme had to be won and they altered their tactics with a rolling barrage and “pepper potting”. It should also be remembered that, out of all the forces in the First World War, the British troops were far and away the best cared for by an officer corps who really looked after them.
    Behind the lines, where the troops spent about half their time in reserve, life was not at all bad. There were regimental football matches, Toc H, Mademoiselle from Armentieres and red ned and plonk (vin ordinaire).
    Just as the Germans remember with fear their two inflations ((1920 and 1945), so we remember the Somme – a battle which we won, throwing the Germans into an uncharacteristic panic. But like all legends, it is only half the truth.

  4. Colin D.
    November 13, 2011

    Your last paragraph is the most apposite and chilling. Today we see France and Germany working together to order elected leaders of Greece and Italy off the stage. France and Germany then ‘choose’ UNELECTED people to head up these countries. One can also wonder where this army of ‘technocrats’ who are being installed to run these countries, came from – just who is training them and how many more are awaiting in the wings?
    Today, in Europe, democracy is being trashed .

    1. norman
      November 13, 2011

      I was watching the news this morning and they were interviewing people in teh streets of Rome. It was almost a party atmosphere, almost like a when repressed people celebrate the downfall of a dictator.

      You have to wonder what planet these people are on, do they really think that replacing Berlusconi (who for all his faults did at least introduce an element of stability) by, for lack of a better word, a Quisling technocrat who will implement German diktats is going to somehow produce a miraculous recovery?

      1. Disaffected
        November 13, 2011

        The EU nominated person now running Italy was not even in the Italian Government last week. There was a coup of the Italian government and no other country in Europe protested!!!

        I thought about two years ago if Brown was deliberately trying to make our country go broke, but I could think of a reason why he would do it. I now think the financial crisis has provided the perfect reason to claim that a pan European state will be claimed as the only option to save countries in the EU.

        The shameless Blair was ranting EU rubbish on propaganda BBC today. When will the authorities investigate him properly??

    2. Tim
      November 13, 2011

      Was Cameron ordered not to let us have our In/Out referendum by the EU dictatorship?
      A lot our our fallen hero’s would turn in their grave if they knew how our leadership cow tow to the EU, Franco-German cartel. We just continue to pay for no say.

      1. Mike Stallard
        November 13, 2011

        Now there are seven countries directly under the thumb of the GdF group. 14 are in the Euro. That means that when Spain and Portugal or Ireland go under, they will have a majority in the Eurosphere.

    3. uanime5
      November 13, 2011

      What’s wrong with this? If Italy or Greece were a failed company you’d expect the CEO to have to resign before the company was bailed out. It’s not different than asking Fred Goodwin to leave RBS before a Government bailout.

      1. Single Acts
        November 14, 2011

        I believe the primary concern is not Mr B’s departure, it is his replacement and specifically the unorthodox way in which this unelected person was installed as the country’s leader.

        Surely this is apparent.

      2. Diesel
        November 14, 2011

        No, I’d expect the CEO to resign as the company FAILED. Bail outs are by incompetent cowards, which is why Brown, Cameron and the EU are so keen on them.

        Celebration on Italian streets one day does not preclude blood on them the next.

  5. Pete the Bike
    November 13, 2011

    Also how ironic it is that we are still fighting wars we should have stayed out of and still being led by people that do not care what ordinary people think or how much they suffer.
    Politicians continue to spend too much in every way.

  6. A.Sedgwick
    November 13, 2011

    Our C21 Governments have learned little about futile wars and the loss or maiming of our young people. I imagine many MPs will still be thinking why they voted for the war in Iraq and the majority of us the people cannot understand why we are still in Afghanistan.

  7. Alan Wheatley
    November 13, 2011

    Nicely and succinctly put.

    A further lesson to be learnt from history is that if you want peace you should prepare for war. Pacifism gets you nowhere and encourages your opponent. As long as there are those who are ready and willing to achieve their aims by violent means at your expense you need, ultimately, the violent means to stop them.

    There were plenty of opportunities to stop Hitler up to and including Czechoslovakia; the means were there but the spirit was not willing. In the end what what would have been a relatively minor skirmish turned out to be a horrific tragedy.

    Both Chamberlain and Heath, in their own ways, let the horrors of the wars they had witnessed cloud their judgment, and consequently led the country in wrong direction.

  8. Kevin Ronald Lohse
    November 13, 2011

    Dear John. It is a pity that you didn’t re-read Liddle-Hart to refresh your memory on the origins of WW I before penning your post. Our treaty obligations to France and other european powers made it impossible to stay out of the conflict by the standards of the day. Furthermore, the myth of the naval shield was severely put to the test at Jutland and elsewhere. Not for nothing did Churchill write that Fisher was the only man,” who could have lost the War in an afternoon”, and the overriding concern to keep the “Fleet in Being” allowed German commerce raiders and submarines to have a negative effect on the war effort out of all proportion to their numbers. A shield that has to be defended from the sword is of little use.
    As to Cameron’s Europe policy. When “professional” politicians and career bureaucrats see the governance of their Nation merely as a stepping stone to greater wealth and influence in an undemocratic, unaccountable autocracy, then a self-interested policy will be designed to enable their self-interested aims.

    Reply: Of course I understand the Treaty obligations , but when writing a counter factual in history you are allowed to assume a different foreign policy stance prior to the conflict. Please see my response on Jutland above.

  9. lifelogic
    November 13, 2011

    Lions led by donkeys alas as is still so often the case. I too have tried hard to understand how it could have been allowed to happen. People as a mass acting according group think and the personal pressures of the job and what they ‘believe’ is expected of them usually without real personal knowledge of the coal face. Often driven by religious beliefs, of all kinds, rather than logic, trial and error, and real evidence.

    It still goes on everywhere.

    1. lifelogic
      November 13, 2011

      Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori – Well perhaps, but it does help if it is a just war with a clear benefit in a positive outcome and it is actually possible for the war to be won and is not entered into on a blatant lie and ill equipped.

      I cannot see much Dulce est pro patria mori in Blair’s wars. But the BBC for some idiotic reason chose to have the “go to war on a blatant lie Blair” on Andrew Marr this morning.

      He is also still insisting that he wanted to take the UK into the EURO for “political” reasons but the economics was not right. At least he can repent under his new religion.

  10. Martyn
    November 13, 2011

    Our politicians – and to a large extent the military leaders – never seem to learn from the history of warfare. Iraq was perhaps the most recent example of this, when we dismantled its police and armed forces after winning the war, thereby directly helping that nation to descend into chaos.
    Yet in WWII we used the German police, some elements of their armed forces and, again, elsewhere, used the defeated Japanese forces to maintain law and order under strict Allied supervision. It worked then and would probably have worked in Iraq, but once again, no politician or military leader seemed to remember the lessons of history. Which in the end we and other peoples have to pay for in blood and money.

  11. Mazz
    November 13, 2011

    I will be paying my respects, later in the morning, to the memory of my Grand Uncle, who died fighting in the Battle of Arras, 9th April – 3 May 1917. He was a Private in the 7th Battalion of the East Lancashire Regiment and is buried in Fauberg D’Amiens Cemetery, Arras. James Thomas Corless, may you rest in peace.
    His brother John, who also served his Country, died in India. Both pawns in the destructive ‘game’ of war. The trouble is, Politicians are not learning from past mistakes and our young men are still paying the ultimate price.

  12. David Duff
    November 13, 2011

    I disagree with your view that we should have stayed out of WWI. If the French had been over-run and the Germans had succeeded in gaining use of their Atlantic and Mediterranean ports our future, being utterly dependent on open sea routes, would have been very fraught. Remember, Jutland was only ‘won’ because we (just) failed to lose!

    Reply: The UK fleet was geratly superior and the German fleet withdrew to spend the rest of the war seeing little action. The larger loss of UK ships probably owed much to holding too much live ammunition above decks, making a shell hit potentially lethal. This was something surely our Admirals would soon have worked out if our ships had been called into further actions. The UK had a policy of having a navy superior to the two next largest navies. She could have afforded to continue that policy if she had not spent so much money on fighting WW1.

  13. English Pensioner
    November 13, 2011

    Many of the same arguments can be applied to the war in Afghanistan. Is this a “necessary and worthwhile war”? Certainly not in my view, and if you look at history, why do our politicians think that we will achieve anything?
    My father was in the Machine Gun Corps in the trenches in 1917. He survived, but would never talk about it. Having a Swiss father he spoke German, and subsequently worked for a German Company in the UK (Bayer Pharmaceuticals) visiting Germany on a regular basis. He told me that from the early thirties onward, you could see that Germany was preparing for war and was an avid supporter of Churchill’s position that war was coming. He held most politicians of the day in complete contempt, for refusing to face the facts. I suspect he would feel the same about most politicians today!

  14. Matt
    November 13, 2011

    Both my grandfathers served in France during WW1 – one of them for 4 years until he eventually was wounded to the point that he didn’t go back.

    I didn’t, to my regret, ask them much, only becoming curious when it was too late, but they both felt very bitter about the generals, or high command – launching assaults against heavily defended placements that carried little chance of success, at great cost.

    I’m not much of a historian and my view is limited, but right or wrong they both felt strongly about this.

    Interesting enough I can never remember them saying anything at all derogatory about the

    1. English Pensioner
      November 13, 2011

      I suspect that if you had asked them, they would have told you very little; my father would never talk about it. All he ever had was scathing comments about the politicians of the day. He certainly didn’t feel animosity towards the Germans, after the war he went to work for a German Company, and frequently visited Germany see my own blog

  15. davidb
    November 13, 2011

    I suspect France is a bit of a Trojan horse for Germany. Like Germany needs a bloody minded totally self interested nation in a union with it. I can see the benefits to France, but not to Germany.

    On another sad note, I was informed that the collection from 50 poppies sold at a local bank ran to a little over £20. What is it with people that they think it is appropriate to give such trivial sums? ( I am reminded of MP’s who claimed their donations on expenses. )How much is enough for those whom we have, whatever the merits of the conflict, sent off to do the dirty work?

  16. James Strachan
    November 13, 2011

    We recognise the Second World War as inevitable because it could be clearly foreseen from 1937 – or earlier for Winston Churchill. Hitler could clearly be seen to be a tyrant.

    My father told me how, in school in Gravesend in 1938, they all believed that war was coming. They feared going to fight but knew that they would have to.

    We find it more difficult to recognise the First World War as inevitable and just. It is further away in time and the causes of the war seem less obvious. It seemed to spring like a storm from a clear sky.

    But, if you look, the underlying cause is visible. Germany wanted to dominate the world and thought that Europe would be a good starting point. As well as beating the British Navy to gain access to the rest of the world.

    The best description that I know of the process is in “The Great Naval Race” by Peter Padfield. Read the epilogue.

    Our European policy (with the exception of the Foreign Office) has for 400 years been that Europe should be at peace – but a piece between equals without a single dominating nation. That has meant that, at many times, we have fought against the nation that, at that time, wanted to be the dominating nation.

    Now we find ourselves at odds with a European Union that wants to be the dominating supranational power. But, thank God, we can fight this war with the pen and not the sword.

  17. Steven Whitfield
    November 13, 2011

    Contrast John Redwood’s fine words with those of our deputy Prime minister Nicholas Clegg. At the risk of sounding like a bore, I again repeat them here.

    ““All nations have a cross to bear, and none more so than Germany with its memories of Nazism. But the British cross is more insidious still. A misplaced sense of superiority, sustained by delusions of grandeur and a tenacious obsession with the last war, is much harder to shake off.”

    “We need to be put back in our place”

    I wonder what the relatives of his Sheffield Hallam constituents who were bombed in the war feel about this ?

  18. self determination
    November 13, 2011

    Watching the ceremony from the cenotaph on the television I found it hypocritical and quite disturbing to watch the political leaders past and present who would appease those who wish to enslave us, whether they be the unelected officials of the EU superstate or the proponents of that supremacist religious ideology, laying down wreathes in memory of those who died to preserve our freedom. How long until we are told we are no longer able to hold this ceremony or have a C of E bishop play a role in it?

    1. Tad Davison
      November 13, 2011

      Spot on!

      Tad Davison


  19. Bernard Otway
    November 13, 2011

    John I too feel like you about WW1,my Grandfather on my father’s side was a RAMC doctor
    from 1914 to 1918,in 1910 on my father’s birth certificate he is named as Captain A.L. Otway RAMC ,so what rank he was I am not exactly sure but I think it was Brigadier.At the end of the conflict he left the army and the medical profession,he told me he was so appalled by
    what you describe in Lions/Donkeys and MANS INHUMANITY TO MAN that he felt UNABLE to treat MAN at all,he took his family my Grandmother Father and Aunt to
    British Columbia in Canada and bought an apple farm in the Okanagan valley,he only returned to being a Doctor after the great depression after losing the farm,as a GP in Londonderry and practised almost up to his death in 1958.So in other words he stopped being a doctor for about 12 years,and he told me that IF there was no great depression
    he may not have returned to being a Doctor,even though he was always being badgered by his neighbours in a remote area of British Colombia and of course did help as it was the human thing to do. Also off this subject but a huge observation of the Cenotaph ceremony
    wreath laying,there were over 50 Commonwealth countries represented, to those that say we will SINK if we leave the EU HOW MUCH MORE CAN WE SELL TO THEM TO REPLACE WHAT WE SELL TO THE EU,as an amount to each one, and leave out the BIG
    5 Aus/NZ/Can/SA/India,that is still not a big number to each and all these economies are GROWING. In American parlance A NO BRAINER.IF the idiots in the EU and here realised this,especially the top of the EU they would Quake in their boots because WHO would replace the EU’s balance of trade surplus with us of about 50 Billion IF the unthinkable happened and they had to find other markets.

  20. Stanley Cook
    November 13, 2011

    Hear hear. But “…the UK had to stand alone…”? With respect, what about Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, the Indian Empire, British dependencies, the Free Poles, the Free Czechs and (later one) the Free French etc.?

    Reply: Yes, you are right – I apologise for my error.

  21. pete
    November 13, 2011

    I often wonder what sort of world we would be in now if we had stayed out of WW1. We were never friendly with the French so why did we need to get involved?

    Germany would have defeated France and Belgium leading to a kind of Eurozone, WW2/Hitler woudn’t have happened and we wouldn’t have wasted all those UK and Commonwealth lives. The Russians wouldn’t have created that Iron Curtain and we’d maybe have avoided that 50 year cold war having over Europe

    Something tells me the political picture in Europe wouldn’t be far different to what it is now which if you could re visit history and the question should the UK have stayed out of WW1.

    One good thing at least were not in the Euro and providing the UK can concentrate more on other markets like China/Brazil etc that should mitigate some of whats coming

    1. Mike Stallard
      November 13, 2011

      Have you seen the map which the German High Command produced in 1918 spring before the offensive?
      What about Brest Litowsk? They simply took over most of Russia in Europe.
      The myth that the Kaiser was just a sort of Edward VII with a moustache is simply wrong.

    2. uanime5
      November 13, 2011

      Given that your WW1 would lead to the German Empire gaining control of the entire French Empire (second largest in the world); along with Germany, Italy, and Austro-Hungary all being strong and allied this could have lead to a much worse WW2 for Britain.

  22. Martyn
    November 13, 2011

    I quite accept that comment on your blog is moderated according to your best interests, but must confess to being puzzled as to my comment on this subject about politicians not learning the lessons of history, with what I thought were relevant links to how we and the allies used the defeated nation’s police and armed forces to maintain law and order in the defeated country under supervision, was not accepted.
    I referred only to the failure to consider that in terms of Iraq, but suppose that Afghanistan might run counter to that if what we read is true and wonder if this was the reason for not posting my comment?

    Reply: Adding links slows down posting – it takes time to check them – and it may be that I could not open them. Please just summarise your argument and then it should get posted mroe quickly. I am not trying to censor the argument, but to protect you from libel allegations or giving offence to individuals or named organisaitons.

    1. Martyn
      November 13, 2011

      John – as ever, a short, to the point and understandable response for which I thank you and will bear in mind for the future.
      Keep up the good work!

  23. End game
    November 13, 2011


    I agree with what you say. What is making me jumpy now are the threats from the Barosso’s of this world that we have to follow their plan for a ‘peaceful’ Europe or else…

    ” There are more ways of killing a cat than choking it with cream” and so it is with Europe; there are more political structures than Plato’s Republic example run by Guardians.

    Berlusconi may have had his problems but I do not like seeing him (and also Papandreuo) ousted by the Franco-German axis and replaced with Puppets (Quislings??).

    Finally, Cameron does not seem to have a clue what to do – UKIP will make hay out of this.

  24. Norman Dee
    November 13, 2011

    I don’t believe the last Franco German conflict has been seen. Ultimately this economical conflict will end and if it ends with a core EuroZone led by France and Germany the problems will have only just started. After a while the Germans are going to realise that the French suck on this Euro teat in a fashion that will have their workforce moaning about them having to pay the French to work, and subsidise just about everything else that goes on in their “partners”. Then they will say the word that no French politician has been brave enough to say, “assez”, enough! reorganise the agriculteral system that is bleeding the rest of europe dry and causing starvation in developing countries, no more protectionist policies etc etc. Until this happens France will continue to shelter behind Europe and refuse to catch up with the rest of us.

  25. E
    November 13, 2011

    Having read 1/2 a dozen of your posts after an absence from your site for some months I have one question?

    Why are you not in Government?

    Reply: Mr Cameron thinks there are more suitable people to be in the Cabinet. He is entitled to choose,as he is the leader.

    1. Tad Davison
      November 13, 2011

      I’d like to see you given ministerial office too, as your views match the majority of those of the wider public, and we are presently disenfranchised. But what a pity so many people feel differently about those whom David Cameron has put in places of influence and trust. With the odd exception, I am not inspired at all by the ‘chosen ones’. Most are from the same political classes that have given us this mess in the first place. They’re arrogant, and severely lacking in ideas and testosterone.

      I have said elsewhere, if you let a monkey drive your car, and it puts it into a ditch, would you then trust that same monkey to get you back out of it?

      That sentiment applies equally to many of our domestic politicians, as it does to the technocrats parachuted-in to places like Greece.

      Tad Davison


    2. Single Acts
      November 14, 2011

      Just so long as he doesn’t put dangerously inexperienced people into the treasury, especially in the mistaken belief that they are accountants when they are not.

      Because not checking CV’s before offering treasury posts would be just dumb.

    3. lifelogic
      November 14, 2011

      Anyone who can appoint Lord Patten to the BBC and not appoint JR when he has dopes like .. well, nearly all of them in fact, in the cabinet is clearly a mad Ted Heath type.

      The only other explanation is the Libdems are steering him by somewhere very very painful and he has no guts. As they are clearly able to thanks to his idiotic failure to win the election outright, with his lefty, greeny, nicey, pro EU manifesto against the sitting duck Brown.

      I tend to think it is the former looks more believable.

    4. E
      November 15, 2011

      His loss

  26. John Bowman
    November 13, 2011

    Is the suggestion then that the UK should have just left France and Germany to fight for control over Continental Europe and then gone about its business in Empire?

    Germany got the upper hand by 1940. Germany offered Britain exactly that deal, leave the Continent to us and Britain can go about its peaceful business.

    On the positive side, Germany would have squashed Stalin and Communism, so no Cold War.

    The money and resources pent on warfare, hot and cold between 1940 and 1989 could have been turned to development in other areas.

    Britain’s Empire would probably have transmogrified into an economical commonwealth of sovereign states.

    The British perhaps could have suggested to Germany the “final solution” was to transport Jews to their own state in Palestine, in British hands at the time – giving what there is today minus one would hope the millions of deaths of Jews.

    And with no Soviets to make mischief, no Suez crisis, no pan-Arab uprising, the Middle East split amicably between the British Empire and the Third Reich, old French territories in German hands, Britain keeping its own.

    Anglo-Iranian oil still flowing, no Ayatollahs, no PLO or Islamic Jihad, warm relations with the USA, no Communist China now part of a friendly Empire of Japan, and so on.

    So everything really peachy. Why did we not go for that I wonder?

    Could it be that ambitious, power and territory hungry people have big appetites, the more they devour the more they want?

    So Franco-German Europe.

    What’s next?

    1. Mike Stallard
      November 13, 2011

      Actually we did go for it. Chamberlain, Edward VIII and a lot of Conservatives went for it big. It was called appeasement. Hitler really loved the British Empire and used it to model his own Third Reich. He had film shows about it regularly.

      The problem was that Hitler was not a genius. He was just a little man with a trendy moustache, mired in out of date ideas and made angry by brutal rejection as an artist and looking for someone to blame for losing the war when he considered that he had been on the winning side.

      He also lied through his teeth. So when he again broke his word over Apfal Weiss (Poland) poor old Chamberlain had to go to war.

      Where we went wrong – isn’t hindsight fun! – was in the 1950s when we callously dumped the Commonwealth in favour of a new Commonwealth of Europe. Big mistake! It was going to turn into the Federal European Bureaucracy, unelected, undemocratic, out of control. Monnet never wanted a Commonwealth. Never.

      HM the Queen has got it so very right. God Bless Her Majesty!

      We must leave this dreadful caboodle now. And pay the price too.

      1. Andrew Duffin
        November 14, 2011

        God bless Her Maj indeed.

        But one must – loyally and respectfully – point out that she has not observed her coronation oaths when she has assented to legislation permitting foreign bodies to exercise authority in her realm.

        It’s true that a refusal of the royal assent would lead to a constitutional crisis and probably a republic, but at least it would have forced the matter out into open debate.

        Such an outcome seems to me preferable to what we have now – the pomp and show of independence and government has been maintained, but it is all an empty sham: the power has all been surrendered, and the decisions are all made somewhere else, by people we cannot influence or dismiss.

    2. Tad Davison
      November 13, 2011

      Maybe delaying the inevitable? What guarantee would we have, that the Nazis, having acquired wealth, raw materials, and nuclear weapons, procured and perloined from other countries, wouldn’t then have a showdown with us some years down the road?

      We were right to thwart Germany then, however late it might have seemed, and history has a nasty habit of repeating itself if we appease. Unfortunately, we now have a group of politicians who seem hell-bent on giving away Britain’s wealth and right to self-determination. Major was a joke, as were the likes of Heseltine, Hurd, Howe, Brittan, and many more, but they weren’t on their own – all parties are culpable.

      In Cameron, we hoped to get another Churchill. Instead, we get another Chamerlain.

      Tad Davison


    3. uanime5
      November 13, 2011

      I doubt Germany would have gone to war with Stalin. If they had gone to war they would have found it difficult even with the help of the Slavs.

      Leaving the continent to the German, Italian, and Austrio-Hungarian Empires would not have been a wise move. Also would the Ottoman Empire have been left intact?

      Why would Germany need a final solution without Hitler running Germany? Also the final solution was to prevent a Jewish homeland being created.

      I doubt that Britain and Germany trying to divide the world would have worked. Wars over the colonies would have occurred. Also the local people would have objected.

      “Britain’s Empire would probably have transmogrified into an economical commonwealth of sovereign states.”

      Not without several revolts from the people living in these states. Britain only dissolved its Empire because it couldn’t afford it.

      “Anglo-Iranian oil still flowing”
      The Iranian would have revolted long ago. Also the Russian Empire controlled part of Iran.

      “no Ayatollahs”
      They wouldn’t be the rulers of Iran but they still would exist.

      “no PLO or Islamic Jihad”
      Only if there’s no Israel.

      “warm relations with the USA”
      How is this different from now?

      “no Communist China now part of a friendly Empire of Japan”
      I don’t know where to start pointing out what’s wrong with this. The Chinese prevented Japan conquering them and the Empire of Japan wasn’t friendly (especially not to China and Korea).

    4. Andrew Duffin
      November 14, 2011

      Hitler would have squashed Stalin?

      I think not. He tried, if you remember, and failed. And that was before he was involved on wars on two fronts

      Things would not have been as peachy as you suggest.

  27. Sue Doughty
    November 13, 2011

    I read in Trollope that the Great War was not about the Balkans at all – it was about the end of one empire and the wish to make a new one by force, and poison, and gas, and wiping out and maiming the enemy in numbers in order to prevail. My Great Uncle George was killed in those trenches by gas attacks – he finally died in 1942 helping evacuate building during the blitz, having spent his life from aged 17 blind, deaf and disabled. He died as he said he should, with his boots on. Gas was used to kill thousands and to maim thousands so handing a burden of care to the enemy. It was cruel and nasty to the nth degree.
    Worryingly Mrs Merkel is an Oster so she does not know about that, nor does she understand why Greeks feel owed by Germany, nor that Germany has a cruel streak to be kept in tight hand. She does not know the tribes of Northern Europe, when grouped unhelpfully, do try and wipe out millions of lives and burden the rest – that they will do it again if given an opportunity.
    We could not have stayed out of the Great War because we and our interests were attacked, Germany having decided our wealth was theirs to take, our lands and Empire theirs to take, after having taken the world’s capital from France. They allowed themselves to be deluded and we see them doing it again under the charismatic and popular Mrs Merkel. We can also see them rearming in the quiet nationalisation of a large part of EADS.

  28. Frances Matta
    November 13, 2011

    I took my father to France in November 1996 to see his father’s grave. He was killed there in 1918.
    At the hotel we met a French lady who was a child in the Great War. She said “So many of my compatriots forget, Monsieur, what your country did for my country twice in this century. Merci Monsieur et merci a voitre Papa”. It was the first time I saw my father cry.
    On the way back to the airport, I asked him “Do you think France was worth fighting for?” He smiled and said “Oh yes”.
    I wonder what he would say now. He died in 1998.

  29. Rebecca Hanson
    November 13, 2011

    We commit ourselves to work in penitence and faith
    for reconciliation between the nations,
    that all people may, together,
    live in freedom, justice and peace.

    We pray for all who in bereavement, disability and pain
    continue to suffer the consequences of
    fighting and terror.

    We remember with thanksgiving and sorrow
    those whose lives,
    in world wars an conflicts past and present,
    have been given and taken away.

    (prayers from our act of remembrance at our local war memorial).

  30. Denis Cooper
    November 13, 2011

    On a lighter note, in a way:


    “The European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF) last week announced it had successfully sold a €3bn 10-year bond in support of Ireland.

    However, The Sunday Telegraph can reveal that target was only met after the EFSF resorted to buying up several hundred million euros worth of the bonds.

    Sources said the EFSF had spent more than € 100m buying up its own bonds to help it achieve its funding target after the banks leading the deal were only able to find about €2.7bn of outside demand for the debt.”

    Well, I think you have laugh, especially with the CEO saying how pleased he was:


    “In spite of the recent market volatility, the issue was met with solid demand with orders received in excess of €3 billion from real money investors around the world.

    Klaus Regling, CEO of EFSF commented “I am pleased that the EFSF has again attracted investors from all over the world with a satisfactory overall amount despite a difficult market environment”.”

  31. lola
    November 13, 2011

    One of the (many) things that worries me about the present crop of MP’s is how very few have any military experience whatsoever. This, I think, was in large part to blame in allowing Bliar to get away with his self-agrandising military adventures. Pretty well all parliaments before 1997 had MP’s who knew what war was like from the private soldier level and right up the chain of command. And this applied to both Labour and Tory benches. The reducing of the military under your government as well as its reduction and writing down under the incompetence of Bliar/Brown does not auger well for the future, as even less people / citizens will have any experience of the true awfulness (of often, unfortunately, necessary) battle. Nor will they have learned the essential self-discipline which is at the heart of all successful soldiers/sailors/airmen and allows the building of even more successful military formations. I am not calling for the re-introduction of conscription as I do not think that that is sensible. Better to have a decent sized professional military to provide an experienced cadre of leadership if general mobilisation is required. WW2 was fought and won by citizen soldiery. In fact the turning point victory. Alamein, was won by a citizen army, a mixed race and culture one at that. So, there are knock on outcomes of cutting the military budget that will cost us dear in the future. Lastly the UK has always had a modestly sized, but very professional Army, and concentrated resources on a large Navy (and possibly latterly Air Force – although this is less necessary). Such a balance is exactly compatible with the needs of a true trading nation. We need to be able to protect our trade routes and our trading partners throughout the Globe.

    Reply: We do have MPs with recent military experience, and we listen carefully to them – e.g. Desmond Swayne, Patrick Mercer, Andrew Murrison,Andrew Selous, Julian Brazier etc etc

    1. lola
      November 13, 2011

      Yes, I know about them. Really, I was making the point about ‘citizen’ armies. And you can add Steve Baker to your list.

    2. Bob
      November 13, 2011

      You should listen very carefully to Patrick Mercer.
      He speaks the truth.

  32. brian kelly
    November 13, 2011

    The first world war resulted in the wholesale slaughter of the young men [predominantly] of this country – [the future of our country virtually wiped out] – the slaughter of a generation who otherwise would have served this country in a myriad of ways. It was a collossal disaster – pure asinine slaughter. I too, and older than you, have slowly changed my opinion of this war. This country suffered too much and for too little reason – and there were reasons for this war – and, let us at least hope, for the conduct of it. But still, if we had not entered this war on the side of France and if Germany had defeated France we would have faced a challenge. But could that challenge conceivably have resulted in a worse disaster than that which did happen. I think not. We would still have had the immense power of the commonwealth and our Navy and armed forces to stand, untouched, against Germany. But still a conundrum.

  33. Andrew
    November 13, 2011

    JR I agree with much your analysis about the First World War. The Second World War is more complex , –it certainly quickly became , from Britain’s perspective , a crusade against a monstrous tyranny.

    However it is worth remembering that our first, military, involvement began in 1939 to honour a treaty commitment to Poland, –so in a sense at that stage we were still practicising military involvement in Europe as a result of treaty obligations. However WW2 remains far more of a war of principle than WW1. For much of the world it rescued and revived the idea of democratic governance. Not without terrible human cost though , and the cost of most of Eastern Europe being dominated by another form of tyranny for some 45 subsequent years.

  34. pedroelingles
    November 13, 2011

    I note that you courteously have not actually mentioned “The Fourth Reich” but there can be no doubt that is what is intended, well under construction and the path down which we are treading. Unlike the Third Reich this effort is a war of attrition and may be bloodless but in any event there is still time to stop it in its tracks and unravel the devious plotting now. To permit Germany to continue to dictate to an economically wobbly France against the wishes of a majority of the French people can only lead ultimately to a one nation pre-eminence. This is real and now and the departure from the EU of this country will certainly trigger others to join us in a Free Trade Zone. The ensuing problems and resettlement may be difficult but will not be insurmountable and at least “Peace in our Time” will not be an empty phrase.

  35. uanime5
    November 13, 2011

    John the reason why the First World War generals adopted the tactics they did was because of the war that had been fought before and the military theory they has been trained in. Also it was only after the Crimean War that officers could not longer buy promotions.

    During the Napoleonic Wars Napoleon would have his soldiers charge with their bayonets at the enemy soldiers to cause them to break formation and rout. This was successful because at the time muskets could only be fired once then had to be reloaded. So during a charge those in the first row might be hit (muskets still weren’t accurate) but the rest would be able to get to the enemy soldiers before they could reload and fire another volley. This tactic was still successful during the Crimean War.

    So by the start of WW1 the main military tactic was soften the enemy with artillery and musket fire, have your soldiers charge at them, have the cavalry prevent the enemy regrouping. Machine guns and rifles that could fire multiple times before they needed to be reloaded were not well known in European warfare until WW1, so the generals weren’t able to take them into account. I believe that only the Battle of Gettysburg during the American Civil War truly demonstrated just how destructive these new weapons could be.

    I feel it’s unfair to blame the British generals for their techniques given that they were facing a weapon they were not trained to deal with, especially since both the French and Germany generals did the same thing because they didn’t know what else to do. It wasn’t until tanks were invented there was a solution.

    Finally we had to enter into the First World War because of our mutual defence treaty with Belgium. Had Germany not attacked Belgium then the UK wouldn’t have needed to declare war unless either France or Germany was likely to conquer the other country (a combination of the French and German Empire would have been very problematic for the British Empire).

    1. lola
      November 13, 2011

      Well, the BEF soldiers were so expert with their Lee Enfields, when firing a ‘mad minute’ that many German formations after action reports stated that they had been in receipt of machine gun fire. The Generals knew before WW1 that modern weapons (the Maxim gun had been used very effectively against rebellions in various cornerrs of the Empire) made mass infantry attacks against dug in positions murderous. And they also knew that QF cannon made horse mounted cavalry pointless – that had been discovered in the Crimea. The generals also knew that they needed to re-introduce movement to battle, but had no means of doing so until tanks became available. What I cannot reconcile, if they knew all this, is why both sides persisted in massed infantry attacks. It takes a certain kind of dispassion in Generals to order such attacks and accept the losses with equanimity. Perhaps this was a legacy of the class system, but I don’t know if that really cuts it. More, perhaps, it was down to ignorance and arrogance and a desperate need to gain a victory of any kind. Whatever reason WW1 reduced itself to a war of attrition in quick order, which the Germans were winning until the US joined in.

  36. Gary
    November 13, 2011

    WWI , some say, was the first war to secure oil for countries moving to the new oil fuel powered fleets, first proposed by Fisher in the UK. The Baghdad to Berlin railway was seen as the real straw that broke the peace.

    WWII , some say, was inevitable after the onerous debts placed onto Germany at Versailles destroyed the economy. Weimar money printing was the hyperinflation response in order to default on the debt. Hitler came out of the ensuing chaos.

    1. uanime5
      November 14, 2011

      Actually hyperinflation had ceased long before Hitler came to power thanks to Gustav Stresemann. Stresemann also increased economic growth in Germany while the Nazi’s were little more than a fringe party. The chaos that helped Hitler to power was caused by the 1929 Stock Market crash.

  37. badgerbill
    November 13, 2011

    I received an email that states that immigrants, apart from being placed in houses that the majority cannot afford, are in receipt of a minimum of £250 plus all the extras whilst pensioners are in receipt of £101and have to chose between heat and eat!. Why are these people revered so much? Why do they receive more from the state than our armed forces do, many of whom are to be slung out because they have received injuries in battle?

    What use is parliament to those of us who see our own kith and kin treated in such a manner? An absolute disgrace to the nation!

    Reply: there is an email circulating with some wrong figures. The government has issued a more accurate response.

    1. Bob
      November 13, 2011

      I cannot believe the depths that some would sink to in stealing memorial plaques. (speculates without evidence on groups who might be doing this-ed)

  38. Tad Davison
    November 13, 2011

    Lest we forget.

    If we do forget, and not recall the lessons from history, the same thing can happen all over again. We therefore owe it to future generations to recall the many millions of sacrifices made, to preserve our liberty and national identity, and our right as a free people to our self-determination. To give away all that we hold dear, is a betrayal of those who paid with their lives.

    On the BBC’s Andrew Marr show this morning, Tony Blair seemed quite shocked as he tried to explain the catastrophe that is the European Union. The dream has gone belly-up, as we Euro-sceptics always said it would. It was underpinned by a worthless, spendthrift, wasteful economic system that was doomed to failure from the start.

    Blair tried to ignore the blame for the debacle. Instead, he urged everyone to look at the problem, and not point an accusing finger towards those, and the system that caused the mess. Vested interests indeed!

    Incredibly, that was just minutes before his appearance at the Cenotaph, to lay a wreath in respect of those who have died in all wars and conflicts. That sickens the stomach, and leaves a bitter taste.

    Very poignant Mr Blair! Because the words, ‘LEST WE FORGET’ apply equally to the EU, as it does to the remembrance service itself. If we forget who and what caused it, history will repeat itself!

    Blair, of course, paid his massive part in the pro-EU conspiracy that saw Britain’s powers and democracy betrayed. Best we always remember then, and make sure his ilk never get elected again!

    Tad Davison


  39. Sarah Parsons
    November 13, 2011

    You refer to lions led by donkeys. I agree but I prefer the expression “tallest pygmy”. This was the explanation given to me by a respected American friend when I asked him to explain how it was that George W. Bush had managed to gain a second term. “Simple” he said ” the race is full of pygmies and the tallest pygmy won”.

    I believe that at present amongst the political classes – elected and unelected – there are a great many pygmies.

  40. Robert George
    November 13, 2011

    Montgomery reckoned that John Monash an engineer, and the son of a Bavarian Jew and a part time soldier was probably the best Allied General of WWI. Unfortunately Monash only came late to prominence because his fellow Generals and politicians objected to his Jewishness!

    Monash considered his greatest achievement as a General was to deliver hot meals to front line soldiers. No other General even considered it.

    Don’t worry about the EU John, the markets are killing it, it’s just a question of time and, unfortunately , collateral damage. The collateral damage will be huge, precisely because the people who have appointed themselves to get the EU out of this hole are dedicated members of the class that created the shambles. They will learn nothing from the experience.

    Citizens will pay the price of their follies.

  41. forthurst
    November 13, 2011

    “The first war lacked the cause that a hated ideology and the fanatical treatment of non Germans by Hitler gave to the second.”

    What intrigues me about the history of warfare is the process by which ordinary people are groomed into identifying someone else’s enemy as their own. This can be a concerted propaganda campaign such as that against the Nazis before WWII or the Iraqis before 2003 or the current campaign against Iran, or a false flag operation such as 9/11 to launch a war against Afghanistan and the ‘War on Terror’, or a deliberate provocation such as lading the Lusitania with munitions to enable the US to enter WWI.

    One of the great ‘what ifs’ of history is what if the Bolsheviks had succeeded in taking over Germany in the thirties and then murdered the whole of the German elite as they had in Russia by the tens of thousands from the Czar and his family down who were exterminated in cold blood followed by a blood bath of millions of ordinary Russians. Would we have gone to war against the Bolsheviks or would our own country have been destroyed from within as it is now by the same existential enemy?

    When people claim our enemy is the Taliban they have no idea how wrong they are; our enemy lives here.

  42. Bill Dale
    November 13, 2011

    The French and German governments are fighting for their interests now within Club 17.

    Only economic growth can lift the UK from its debt problems – in a way that is acceptable – the alternative is probably inflation the debtor’s friend.

    I’m so disappointed that Mr Cameron isn’t seizing this opportunity to shed the UK of unwanted directives that restrain our competitiveness.

    Maybe Mr Cameron’s frame of reference is limited as he has had little industrial experience – there’s nothing like running a company, analysing the cash flow, trying to control working capital to make you aware of business.

    I heard a Lib Dem MP saying something like “The EU working directives should apply to UK business…..In Germany companies like BMW can be successful and meet these directives”

    This just shows the misunderstanding that is there – of course the big multi nationals can meet or exceed these conditions for their employees, but how does the guy making wire coat hangers in a rundown factory in the midlands meet with maternity, paternity leave…pension directives.

    In audit work you see a lot of small outfits, getting by with small margins, getting paid on 70 days just hanging on.

    In deed I don’t feel that this government is very distinguishable from its predecessor.

  43. zorro
    November 13, 2011

    ‘How ironic that today the UK’s foreign policy seems based on encouraging France and Germany to unite, when the twentieth century saw us fight two huge wars to prevent just such an outcome.’

    This is the key comment for me. I also cannot see why Cameron/Osborne are so strident in saying that the Euro must survive and the Europeans must do something about it.

    I want Cameron to not waste any more money or UK interests on bailing out this nonsense, and concentrate on defending Britain’s interests and improving our position.

    I have yet to see any convincing evidence that the UK will be any worse off if this currency collapses, compared to it being successful and allowing the markets to hone in on Cameron’s style of governance….


  44. Ian
    November 14, 2011

    A Eurocentric view as ever. The Great War was also fought in the Middle East with important implications for today’s world.

  45. colin
    November 14, 2011

    It is not a matter of politicians failing to learn from the past.Political leaders and their backers make money out of wars.Lbya and Iraq are recent examples that fit the mould.

  46. backofanenvelope
    November 14, 2011

    We have been a nation for over a thousand years. For most of that time our main enemy was France or the French. Then, in 1905, we allied ourselves with them. We went to war in 1914 because we were allied with them. We went to war in 1939 for the same reason. We are in the EU which they have reduced to a shambles. Let’s find someone else to be allied to.

  47. Gareth
    November 14, 2011

    My understanding was that we went to war in 1914 to honour our treaty commitments. What is the point of making a treaty in the first place if you do not intend to honour it?

    Secondly, armchair generals should not, with the benefit of a century of hindsight, condemn real generals as ‘donkeys’ merely because they did not invent Blitzkrieg 25 years before its time, before effective armoured fighting vehicles and before the advent of airborne infantry.

  48. Anne Palmer
    November 15, 2011

    As one that spent many nights in an Anderson Shelter being -to use a much used expression from those days-being bombed to Hell-and bombed out of our home twice-it was indeed no picnic. But oh, how the ordinary people came together and looked after one another. So many people shared their meagre rations with those that had none when their houses were bombed.

    Germany wanted power over-all through two what was called -World Wars. The third time, Germany decided on a different way of taking over all the continental Countries and the UK. Plus now the 16 Mediterranean partner countries from North Africa, the Middle East and the Balkans and “The Arab Spring” in various Newspapers. The Arab Spring, “SPRING”, (“Support for Partnership, Reform, and Inclusive Growth.”) And how the same thing seems to be on people’s minds there replacing certain Leaders? New leaders in the Southerm Med Countries through bombing and new leaders in the EU by other methods.

    But Germany has a very different way of life. That way of life I had a glimpse of when I visited East Berlin when “the Wall” was still up. When that WALL came down, I did not celebrate as millions of other people did, because I knew once that wall came down, things would never be the same again- and although others might not have recognised it then, I think perhaps they do now.

  49. Anne Palmer
    November 15, 2011

    Peace in 2011 depends on loss of freedom.

    Why did they fight for us
    In that war of World War Two?
    They went to fight for freedom,
    For “me” as well as YOU.
    Why did they all fight for us
    Way back in World War One?
    They too gave their all for freedom.
    That was when it all began.

    Old soldiers march so proudly
    To lay their poppy wreaths,
    Many lost their best of friends
    And for them they silently grieve.
    But now I feel deep, deep anger,
    Did they all of them die for nought?
    Wasn’t two World Wars about freedom?
    Surely that was why they fought?

    Never to be ruled by foreigners
    T’was taught at our Grandparents knee,
    Now watching those grandly old gentlemen
    Stumbling slowly, past the Cenotaph, FREE.
    YET where now is that precious “freedom”
    When obeying stranger’s laws?
    Laws decided now by foreigners,
    From inside a “Union” full of flaws.

    We stand and bow each November
    At the Cenotaph in London town,
    In memory of those that “fell” for us
    Not one of those let US down.
    Yet those that tossed away our freedom
    Into strangers welcoming hands,
    Gave not a care for those that died,
    Fighting for freedom in foreign lands.

    But just how robust is that “peace”
    When threats of war are made?
    If things do not “go” the German way
    Can freedom and peace be saved?
    But what kind of PEACE is it,
    When threats of war are made?
    If the Germans do not get what they want
    Can peace in our time be saved?
    Our defences are at their lowest ebb
    They have been cut to the very bone,
    All quite deliberate and eagerly
    Obeying strangers orders, by our own.
    Governments gave our Country away,
    Yet as cowards no truth dare tell,
    Each one kept their Government jobs
    They will be welcomed one day to HELL.

    Yet their HELL will start on this fair earth
    For the fruits of their deeds will sprout
    Like Ivy growing strong and wildly
    They will choke with a whispering shout.

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