My contribution to the debate on the Centenary of the Armistice, 6 November 2018

John Redwood (Wokingham) (Con): A hundred years ago on Sunday, a deafening silence broke out over the vast battlefields of Europe. Then, as now, there must have been very mixed emotions.

There would have been that great sense of loss and remorse that so many people had been slaughtered, and so many people maimed and incapacitated. I guess that for those in the trenches there was apprehension. Was this for real? Could they trust the enemy? Would this truce hold? Could they stumble out of those muddy dungeons that had been their safe houses over all those long weeks and months of toil into a more open and free world where they could behave more normally? But they were, and we are, also permitted some joy that at last this murderous, bestial war was over. After four years of mass industrial slaughter, with millions of individual tragedies between the men and the families of the different combative nations, at last the slaughter was over. There was a chance to build something better.

When I lay a wreath in the morning in Burghfield and in the afternoon in Wokingham, I will be very conscious of two things. I will be conscious that there are war memorials in every other village and town in my constituency that time does not permit me to visit that day. As I look up at those lists of names on those two war memorials, I will be very conscious of how long those lists are and of how many brothers are together on the same list, with a double or treble tragedy for the family.

That scale of loss is difficult to comprehend and to wrestle with.

It reminds me of my two grandfathers. As is the case with most of us, our great grandfathers or our grandfathers were the survivors. They were young men who fought as young men and then tried to build a more normal life when they got back from the trenches. They had not had time to have girlfriends and to marry and produce children before they went off to war. My two grandfathers, like many others, went at the earliest possible opportunity, or may even have misled those involved about their age so keen were they to volunteer. Both fought on the western front.

One was badly injured, but, fortunately, recovered. I wanted to know from them, as a boy and as a teenager, more about these terrible events. Like many of their generation who had been through the war, they did not really want to share it with us. It was obviously so awful. They did not seek my praise and they did not seek my sympathy. They wanted to shield me from it. I wanted to know more about it, but I think that they took that view because it was so awful.

We have heard many moving remarks today, particularly about those who died, but let us think about those who survived. Let us think about what it must have been like to have four years of no normal life—as someone who was 17, 18, 19, 20 or whatever they were—where they had no normal social life and no normal family life apart from very rushed periods of leave, when they could not pursue their normal sports and leisure pursuits because space would not allow it, when they had no privacy, and when they had very repetitious food. The dreadful things they fought are obvious—the shells, the bombs, the rifle bullets, the snipers and the machine guns.

You can just about imagine how awful it must have been to have that fear that you were going to be asked to advance on barbed wire and machine guns, knowing that you had very little chance of surviving, but what about the boredom? What about the relentless discipline and the inability to know how to fill the time while you were worrying about what was going to happen next? All of those things must have been dreadful.

So this is what I think we need to do. We owe it to them, to all those who directed the war, and to all those in this Parliament who sent our army to war—time does not permit this afternoon—to have a proper analysis and discussion about how we can do better in future. I am no pacifist. I think we have to arm ourselves well to protect ourselves and to preserve the peace.

We have fought too many wars and, too often, we sent our army into wars where they had limited chances of winning. We did not have a diplomatic and political strategy to follow the war. There is no use in winning a war, unless we win the peace as well. We know that the sequel to the first world war is the second world war—the tragedy that it all had to be done again on an even vaster scale with even bigger munitions and more terrifying bombs, eventually ending with the explosion of two atomic bombs to bring it to a very sad conclusion.

We need to ask ourselves how we can make sure that diplomacy and politics does not let people down so much again. How was it part of our strategy that, twice, this Parliament sent small highly professional British armies on to the continent to fight a war against a far bigger, better armed foe when they had no chance of winning because they had too little resource, the wrong weapons and the wrong tactics. In the first world war, it took four years to recruit a mighty citizens’ army, to invent a lot of new weapons and to develop new tactics during the war. We were sadly unprepared. We asked them to do too much and it is amazing what they did.

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74 Comments

  1. GilesB
    Posted November 9, 2018 at 5:56 am | Permalink

    Even if they may have expected conscription over the horizon it is staggering how many volunteered.

    How many would today?

    • Hope
      Posted November 9, 2018 at 10:38 am | Permalink

      What is grating is that we had these brave souls making the ultimate sacrifice for a war that politicians created. For their memories to be insulted years later by the likes of Cameron standing at a war memorial by Hollande smirking when he made veiled threats to our nation and now we have the insidious May representing our country when she is trying every trick in the book to let place our nation legally in servitude as a vassal state until its population changes its mind!

      She has tried to scare with notices, briefings, media misinformation, implement a dishonest Kitkat policy to hide true costs and ties to EU, connived, conspired with the people she is meant to negotiate against and lied thus far to make it happen. May refused to answer whether she showed Merkel her capitulation plan before cabinet or parliament, refused to answer whether the EU was allowed to write/edit her alleged Florence speech! The opposite side allowed to write the terms they would accept from her! While the cowardly Tory MPs in her party watch idly by!

      Bring on Corbyn no one could be worse than May. Hammond taxing us more than the previous Labour administrations and doubling the debt more than any Labour govt! £54 billion in interest on debt more than some public services receive yet gives away hundreds of billions to the EU and tens of billions wasted on foreign aid! Crime epidemic where murder is ignored or declared unstoppable for a decade! We are not safe in our own country, brought directly by policies of May to be vindictive to the police. Overwhelmingly this govt is not fit for purpose on any policy front and is a stain on our history and memory of those who fought to preserve our way of life.

      • MikeG
        Posted November 9, 2018 at 3:34 pm | Permalink

        Hard to disagree with you…. sadly.

        We have been, I believe, too successful as a nation. In being so, we have attracted the opprobrium of those less happy, and we have (or some of us have) accepted the resulting sour grapes. Thus we no longer really care to stand up for our national interest. It is seen as ‘exclusive’ or even ‘racist’. This is bunkum: Indeed the WW1 generation (and its offspring) showed us that with great power status can also come decency and humility – the exact opposite qualities of those that some of our critics would attribute to us. This Sunday, let’s be thankful for our forebears’ sacrifices, and also try to live up to their grit, patriotism – and magnanimity.

      • Posted November 9, 2018 at 9:59 pm | Permalink

        Yes, Hope. I feel too that unless something momentous and uplifting happens soon, then this government is destined to go down in history as …. well, I don’t quite know how to describe it. Nothing good, anyway. Self-serving perhaps? Treacherous? Uncaring? Faithless and false-hearted? Certainly disloyal to its erstwhile suporters. How terribly sad.

        There’s still time for it to make a stand and turn the tide – but it has almost run out.

    • Ed Mahony
      Posted November 9, 2018 at 10:39 am | Permalink

      I REALLY hope the Conservative Party and government follows Sweden and France in re-introducing National Service.

      Perhaps make one month conscription mandatory for school leavers (that they can carry out during summer holidays after leaving school). Conscription should include:
      – sleeping barracks – getting up early morning, making sure bed and clothes all tidy (preparing the young for work, being tidy etc, living with others)
      – army drill and basic training (discipline / army discipline)
      – lessons that teach them about the Monarchy, Parliament, the Judiciary, Armed Forces, the Economy, the Health Service, Education, Nature and the Arts, (encouraging patriotism)
      – and then community work – helping people who are flooded, visiting the old etc .. (engender sense of public duty)

      I think there should be prizes (travel to interesting places, work placements, money towards further education). And candidates are awarded Gold, Silver, Bronze if they do well – and that looks good on CV. Etc .. And then make it optional to do an extra month or two.

      This isn’t just about feeding the armed forces (important as that is), but would also have real positive knock-on effects in so many other areas of public life as well.

      (Lastly, it’s also great fun from my experience of CCF at school back in the day).

      • Hope
        Posted November 9, 2018 at 1:08 pm | Permalink

        Private schools make their pupils perform CCF, it gives discipline and enjoyment through a wide range of activities and all participate in DoE scheme where public service for others features. why can’t state schools do the same as well as get good academic results? left wing politics from Tories and Labour that is why. Bring back grammars for the sake of all children education. Most disruptive sent to different schools to meet their disruptive needs and every kind of syndrome left wingers claim they have.

        Stop brining down everyones potential for politics.

        • Ed Mahony
          Posted November 10, 2018 at 1:14 am | Permalink

          Yes, bring back grammars.

          And for those not able enough for grammars, why can’t we just focus these children on Maths and English – to be as strong in these as possible (and then encourage them to pick up practical qualifications as soon as possible).

          • Hope
            Posted November 10, 2018 at 10:06 am | Permalink

            The irony is left winger politicians last week called on private schools to increase the no. Of children from care. Why? When grammars could provide the answer.

      • Tad Davison
        Posted November 9, 2018 at 1:20 pm | Permalink

        Personally, I would like to see criminals treated the same as terrorists and dispatched the moment they brandished a knife, but alas, we need sufficient numbers of police officers in the first place.

        The lack of them is down to the then Home Secretary – Theresa May. In response to a plea for more police officers, I believe it was one Theresa May who told the police federation that they were ‘crying wolf’. What a massive miscalculation by an out-of-touch politician, and now alarmingly, she is in charge of the Brexit negotiations!

        But it isn’t just her judgement that is suspect, so is the judgement of those MPs who foisted such a useless individual upon us in the first place. A monkey could do better!

        Tad Davison

        Cambridge

        • Hope
          Posted November 10, 2018 at 9:29 pm | Permalink

          She stated they cried wolf and thecweek after there were terrorist attrocities where ordinary people saw her failings first hand and it did untold damage to her election results. February this year Rudd told police chiefs any request for money would fall on deaf ears! The day after her dept, the HO, admitted it lost 56,000 illegal immigrants! How do they earn a living, how does this impact on crime i.e. Sex slaves, work gangs, where do they get health, education, live? Rudd should have been sacked for this alone before following and failing to rectify May’s Windrush scandal.

          Do we now talk about the failed prison system under Gauke or the failed criminal Justice system under the the Tories? Not one minister has made a useful contribution towards our lives.

          Jo Johnson resigned reiterate the failings of May but also those in cabinet who support her plan. It begs the overwhelming question, what has Fox been doing for two years ? Moreover what role would he perform under EU rule of goods and agri products as well as the raft of other EU policies keeping the UK as Vassal state! Totally redundant role and a person who enjoys the trappings of office for nothing in return!

      • Posted November 9, 2018 at 10:00 pm | Permalink

        Well said, Ed.

      • Turboterrier.
        Posted November 9, 2018 at 10:30 pm | Permalink

        Ed Mahony

        Great idea but the country cannot afford it in financial terms or enough spare bodies in the existing shrunken forces to train them.

    • sm
      Posted November 9, 2018 at 11:09 am | Permalink

      My Scottish father-in-law lied about his age to volunteer for WWl; he came from a middle-class home, but his life was unhappy and so he valued the opportunity to escape.

      He fought in France and was badly wounded in both legs – wounds that required care and bandaging until he died at the age of 84, yet he worked both in South America and England in an occupation that largely required him to stand. In WW2, he acted as a Fire Warden.

      He and I had a close relationship, but I only once heard him briefly describe one experience – not about the fighting, but about coming back to consciousness after his wounding in the caves used for field hospitals. He saw the nuns in their huge white coifs and thought he had died and gone to heaven. I never heard him say that he regretted volunteering or fighting for Britain, despite his burden.

      • Posted November 9, 2018 at 10:05 pm | Permalink

        Yes, sm. Those of us who have been fortunate enough to be educated properly know what their sacrifice was worth.
        (Note, Andy and co, WE don’t denigrate the previous generations. We know they did their best.)
        They could teach our young ‘uns a thing or two. Nowadays it’s all about ”rights” and hardly ever about corresponding ”responsibilities”.

    • Tad Davison
      Posted November 9, 2018 at 1:06 pm | Permalink

      And if those brave volunteers knew what a crap place this country would become, with its stabbings, burglaries, assaults on pensioners, shop-lifers, acid attackers, moped thieves, and terrorists on our streets, who would have thought it was a country worth fighting for?

      Lenient liberals haven’t given us a better country fit for heroes, they have given us a cesspit. We need to claw it back from them whilst we still have the chance, and that means the removal of wishy-washy pinko apologist snowflakes right across the whole of society. That would be a fitting tribute to those who gave their lives.

      Tad Davison

      Cambridge

  2. Lifelogic.
    Posted November 9, 2018 at 6:22 am | Permalink

    Indeed.

    It is indeed amazing how much they did and in so little time.

    Yet our pathetic current government cannot even organise a sensible & real Brexit in four + years. Then again during the war the government were not so very distracted such vital things as gender pay reporting, hurt feeling “crimes”, workers “rights”, climate alarmism or the genders that can use the different public toilets. Had they been we surely would have lost in a couple of weeks.

    • Lifelogic.
      Posted November 9, 2018 at 7:03 am | Permalink

      Also one hundred years ago we probably had the advantage of only about 1/20 of the number lawyers and far, far less damaging litigation. nor were we handicapped by over the hugely over top and largely parasitic health and safely industry or the climate alarmism religion. You could even fire people if they were no good at their jobs in those days.

      • Newmania
        Posted November 9, 2018 at 9:49 am | Permalink

        What aspect of Health and Safety would you specifically like to remove Lifelogic ?
        Fall arrest harnesses perhaps ,power tool training or why not get those tiresome guards off woodworking machinery, a few lost fingers never did anyone any harm ?
        Personally I don`t see why children should not be sent down into sub sea mines as until recently they were, how else do we get a decent return on capital eh ?

        • Lifelogic.
          Posted November 9, 2018 at 3:08 pm | Permalink

          Much of it does more harm than good and can actually make things rather more dangerous. The state sector runs the NHS which is dire and kills thousands and allows building to be clad in flammable claddings and failed totally to see the banking collapse. Many people are killed by released early from prison. Yet the same state sector thinks it know best how to boss businesses about.

          If people are poorer due to all this red tape they can also be at higher risk from things relating to that poverty.

          Much of it is pointless box ticking, signs and form filling and not really making anything safer. I recently saw someone trip badly on a wet floor sign in a loo, the floor was not wet!

          • Newmania
            Posted November 10, 2018 at 9:21 am | Permalink

            The problem with people like you is that because you don`t do anything you don`t know anything
            The subject was health and safety, you have mentioned the crash of 2008 which was ( amazingly ) not foreseen .
            ….. yuh … thats kinda the thing with a sudden crash.
            Anyhoo what next , oh building regs ok , the debate on Composite panels may be news to you it is not to me and there are any number of materials one might ban. The logic “people died so ban it ” is not one that can used unless you wish to ban most of modern life starting with the car.
            No doubt you would be complaining about the needless regulatory nannying

            The best performing Health Service in the world is the French , the worst bang per buck the USA which spends a prodigious amount of public and private money on health. Much if it ends up in the ahnds of Malpractice Lawyers
            The NHS does very well on health results by international standards but I am not uncritical myself .

            On Health and Safety it has been underfunded and , you will be relieved to know , can be circumvented by requiring employees to create on line trails exonerating employers and making prosecution almost impossible .

            Yay ..

        • Sir Joe Soap
          Posted November 9, 2018 at 5:10 pm | Permalink

          I think the problem is with the nannying which comes along with the legislation, not the preventative measures per se

      • Andy
        Posted November 9, 2018 at 12:17 pm | Permalink

        You can fire people who are no good today too.

        What you can not do is bully people, abuse people or treat people who are different to you unfairly.

        And health and safety is a sign that society learns from its mistakes.

        Rules are put in place when someone is hurt or killed so others aren’t.

        • Dave Andrews
          Posted November 9, 2018 at 1:04 pm | Permalink

          In the NHS health and safety and workers rights go together nicely.
          If a health worker makes a mistake, their employee rights ensure they have to be left in post, so they can make the mistake again, whilst due process on their first mistake grinds along.
          The ward manager has to keep them under close supervision – like they are allowed time to do that.

        • Lifelogic.
          Posted November 9, 2018 at 3:10 pm | Permalink

          Health and safely can often by good but much of it is a parasitic industry that just forces people and businesses to waste money.

        • mancunius
          Posted November 9, 2018 at 3:28 pm | Permalink

          “What you can not do is bully people, abuse people or treat people who are different to you unfairly.”

          Not a dictum that you apply to your own behaviour on this board.

          • Lifelogic
            Posted November 10, 2018 at 11:23 am | Permalink

            Any sensible employer want someone who can reliably do the job well at sensible cost. They have after all to compete in the market. Be it a man, woman, ethnic minority or other group, a person with some disability or a machine or a robot. They care not.

            Unless of course they are the sort of people who will immediately claim that they were discriminated against regardless of the reality. The legal system encourages this massively and can make things worse in many ways for everyone.

        • Anonymous
          Posted November 9, 2018 at 5:07 pm | Permalink

          “You can fire people who are no good today too.”

          Actually it’s not that easy unless they breach contract.

          Health and Safety is fine. Combined with no-win-no-fee lawyering it’s a disaster. Hence silly announcements and warnings everywhere – payouts rather than fought litigations.

        • Lifelogic
          Posted November 9, 2018 at 5:33 pm | Permalink

          Surely it is time to get rid of the plastic stem and black clip and the pin on the remembrance day poppies. They are not really needed. Just make it out of a green paper leaf, red paper petals and a black central dot and then perhaps make them stick or clip on. I tend to loose mine anyway over the course of the day with the pin.

          Theresa May would surely approve with her war on plastic (distraction) agenda, Probably cheaper to make that way too.

        • Lifelogic
          Posted November 9, 2018 at 5:34 pm | Permalink

          The working at heights directive can often be counter productive and much of the abestos agenda is hugely overdone too in relation to most asbestos types..

          If the government is so concerned about safety why encourage cycling in London and cities This is very dangerous indeed certainly more risky that driving drunk statistically.. Even tax breaks for company provided bikes.

        • Turboterrier.
          Posted November 9, 2018 at 10:34 pm | Permalink

          Andy

          What you can not do is bully people, abuse people or treat people who are different to you unfairly.

          Now that is a bit rich coming from you.

      • Lifelogic
        Posted November 9, 2018 at 5:25 pm | Permalink

        Surely it is time to get rid of the plastic stem and black clip and the pin on the remembrance day poppies. They are not really needed. Just make it out of a green paper leaf, red paper petals and a black central dot and then perhaps make them stick or clip on. I tend to loose mine anyway over the course of the day with the pin.

        Theresa May would surely approve with her war on plastic (distraction) agenda, Probably cheaper to make that way too.

    • Lifelogic.
      Posted November 9, 2018 at 8:13 am | Permalink

      Prior to World War I, we had the advantage that public spending was only about 15% of GDP, less than a third of the current absurd rate that ‘tax to death’ Hammond and Osborne have kindly lumbered the nation with. Income tax was just 6% and with no National Insurance at all.

      This current large expenditure for so very little by way of any real value or quality of services actually delivered to the public.

  3. Mark B
    Posted November 9, 2018 at 7:51 am | Permalink

    Good morning.

    A good piece. Many thanks.

  4. ChrisS
    Posted November 9, 2018 at 8:02 am | Permalink

    I’m not a great admirer of trade union leaders but Jack Jones made a very memorable speech in which he said that our soldiers in World War One were “Lions led by Donkeys.”
    This was a phrase first publicised by Alan Clarke and it was largely true. However the great historian A J P Taylor was probably more accurate when he wrote that ‘The war was beyond the capacity of generals and statesman alike.’

    For politicians and Generals to allow such an appalling degree of slaughter to take place was utterly scandalous. It showed a complete lack of care and respect for the working class men that formed the vast majority of the casualties – not to forget that the highest rate of attrition was among the upper class young men who had the misfortune to be granted a commission : Lieutenants were expected to be the first over the top and paid a terrible price, many dying within the first seconds or against the barbed wire..

    Thankfully this was never to be repeated : by 1939 Staff Officers had learned that terrible lesson and things were very different. Yet even today, our politicians still sometimes fail to understand the difficulties of fighting a war :

    It was a disgracefully long time before our soldiers were no longer being sent out on patrol in Afghanistan and Iraq in Snatch Landrovers, for example. The Generals must also bear some responsibility for not being forceful enough in pressing the case for a replacement. Soldiers were also sent into the Gulf War without body armour.

    The defence budget has to be increased if politicians expect our armed forces to continue to undertake so many diverse roles. Our soldiers, sailors and airmen deserve nothing less.

    • Lifelogic.
      Posted November 9, 2018 at 3:12 pm | Permalink

      We have lions let by Theresa May now which is surely worse. At least a donkey might choose to go the right way! May is wrong on virtually every single thing.

    • Posted November 9, 2018 at 10:13 pm | Permalink

      You spoil a good post by suggesting that ”lions led by donkeys” was largely true. It was not. ”Care and respect”? Look a little more deeply.
      Perhaps you should acquaint yourself of the difficulties the leaders had with communications in those days, and stop trying to judge people by today’s standards.
      Do you even know how many Generals were killed on the front line? And you suggest they didn’t care about the men under their command?

      But your last paragraph is worth repeating. Well said.

  5. Alan Jutson
    Posted November 9, 2018 at 8:18 am | Permalink

    Perhaps if we had more politicians from the Armed services in Government/Parliament, and more Politicians Children in the Armed services, the thoughts of using and putting our armed services in harms way may be rather thought out and controlled.

    Just like any negotiation if you have no skin to lose, it is much more easy to make a wrong decision and to not worry too much about the consequences.

    The counter argument to that is that Hitler did take part in World War 1, so was he seeking some kind of revenge for original defeat.

  6. Martin Conboy
    Posted November 9, 2018 at 8:28 am | Permalink

    Si vis pacem, para bellum. As true today as it was in Roman times.

  7. Mike wilson
    Posted November 9, 2018 at 8:49 am | Permalink

    You mentioned ‘climate alarmism’. Does it ever occur to you that maybe, just maybe, you might be wrong? Perhaps we should be alarmed. I think we should embrace green crap JUST IN CASE. Even if the thousands of scientists who study the climate and analyse the figures are wrong and you, just armed with your opinion, are right, green crap seems an obvious choice as burning carbon is dirty, polluting and unsustainable.

    Anew high! Probably ten attempts needed to get past the captcha crap!

    • Turboterrier.
      Posted November 9, 2018 at 10:41 pm | Permalink

      Mike Wilson

      burning carbon is dirty, polluting and unsustainable.

      If that is true Mike why are the Germany, India and China to name but a few listening to these thousand scientists as they are producing coal power power stations at an alarming rate to keep their competitive edge.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted November 10, 2018 at 11:32 am | Permalink

      Embracing climate alarmism just “in case” is totally irrational. As we cannot predict the climate in 100 years time we might be acting in totally the wrong direction anyway. Plus there is the lost opportunity cast. The thousand of billions wasted on climate alarmist and renewables which would be far better spent on simple thinks we know save lives. Clean water, inoculations, good sanitation, anti mosquito actions, good nutrition, decent healthcare, houses the are not destroyed by winds and earth quake, weather and tsunami warning systems, fire prevention, reliable electricity, sensible education …..

  8. Sakara Gold
    Posted November 9, 2018 at 9:12 am | Permalink

    Well said. British society was never the same after WW1 – women won the suffrage, the working class organised, Britannia no longer ruled the waves, many old family names disappeared. Nearly every family in the Empire lost someone.

  9. Everhopeful
    Posted November 9, 2018 at 9:35 am | Permalink

    Old TV footage ( probably 1980s) showed WW1 veterans recalling the utter horror of what they had been put through. One of them said with reference to his having volunteered age 16.. “ We were patriotic in those days. That’s how it was.” ( or similar words). Of course they were..the powers that be had worked very hard since the late 1700s to instill ideals of nationalism,patriotism and “ Rule Britannia”. That’s how they got men to go to war! Requirements changed however and those ideals became much frowned upon. What price the terror, the mutilation and the suffering of those boys?

  10. Norman
    Posted November 9, 2018 at 9:35 am | Permalink

    ‘The War for the World’, a book published in 1916 by Israel Zangwill and lent me by a distant relative of his, gives a perceptive insight into the times leading up to WW1. The author speaks touchingly, in a detached, Jewish way, of England and its culture, and dedicates his book: “TO THE ENGLISHMAN: too modest to be named, too unassuming to question his government’s wisdom or righteousness, who abandoning all worldly and with no other worldly hopes, went to the front as simply as in the daily war for the world, and returned crippled and uncomplaining save of his usefulness to his country, this book – of which he might not wholly approve – is – without permission but with admiring affection – DEDICATED”.
    I love those words of Zangwill’s. But they also reflect a time when popular perceptions were very different than today. Everything has to be understood in its historical context, and the dangers we face are really the same, but in a different guise. I believe there are still many noble souls among us, often doing menial roles with great passion and dignity – such as the young carer’s looking after my sister in a nursing home. Such are the many unsung heroes of our time, who are just as unwittingly caught up in an unseen conflict of a higher order – just as they were then, 100 years ago.

  11. Andy
    Posted November 9, 2018 at 9:45 am | Permalink

    My grandfathers fought in the Second World War. One in the airforce, one in the navy.

    The lessons they taught me live with me.

    Nationalism is bad.

    Isolation is bad.

    Militarism is bad.

    A divided Europe is bad.

    Xenophobia is bad.

    A rejection of expertise is bad.

    Fueling fear of an enemy within is bad.

    The sacrifice of their generation and previous generations is why your Brexit is bad.

    You have not learned the lessons. You risk repeating the mistakes.

    • Dave Andrews
      Posted November 9, 2018 at 1:19 pm | Permalink

      Loss of democracy is the worst.
      Democratic countries with due process and checks and balances on the administration never go to war against each other.
      Brexit is good, because it restores those checks and balances to the government, away from the unelected Brussels centre.
      Look at what is happening all over Europe with the rise of populism. People are rising up because their administrations have lost accountability to them and Brussels reigns. All they can vote for is a puppet government.

    • Alan Jutson
      Posted November 9, 2018 at 1:36 pm | Permalink

      Andy

      If being free of Outside control by another Country good or Bad.

    • lojolondon
      Posted November 9, 2018 at 2:23 pm | Permalink

      It appears, Andy, that your grandfathers would be happier to have tried to appease instead of fighting for British freedom and Democracy against the Third Reich. Maybe they shirked and the load was borne by their braver and more sensible comrades-in-arms, some of whom may have done more than their share?
      It now appears that history is repeating itself, you personally would prefer to remain a part of the (German led EU ed )than to enjoy the freedom and democracy that has been fought for and voted for, luckily your fellow countrymen have had the common sense and courage to fight for British independence and democracy, so once again it appears that others have done it for you.
      I hope that perhaps your grandchildren will turn out to be the kind of people that stand up for their principles and fight for their birthright, but obviously they will have to learn these lessons from someone else, because you clearly are not up to the task.

    • Steve
      Posted November 9, 2018 at 6:06 pm | Permalink

      Andy

      Allow me;

      Nationalism is bad, because it makes people proud.

      Isolation is bad, because it stops you being held over a barrel

      Militarism is bad, because it means the country could defend itself.

      A divided Europe is bad. A union of the ungrateful is worse.

      Xenophobia is bad, because we’re not allowed to dislike.

      A rejection of expertise is bad, because it’s better to fleeced left right & centre by those who don’t know JS.

      Fueling fear of an enemy within is bad. Better to let people think enemies are nice people eh.

      “The sacrifice of their generation and previous generations is why your Brexit is bad.”

      No, it’s those like you who would betray their sacrifices and what they gave their lives for.

      “You have not learned the lessons. You risk repeating the mistakes.”

      Precisely. Corrupt governments, suppression of free speech, denial of enshrined rights, Political Correctness, forced acceptance of mass immigration, giving away national resources to foreign countries, marginalisation of the indigenous population…….too much of them and you get nationalism, or worse.

      We’ve been warning of this till we’re blue in the face, did our socialist marxist rotten governments take heed ?

      No, you and your ilk did not, and now nationalism is on the boil not just here but across Europe.

      We were labelled as virtually any kind of ‘phobe’ imaginable by you lefties.

      If you don’t like what’s on the horizon, Andy, tough luck mate not our problem.

      Your problem—- you and your kind seeded it.

  12. formula57
    Posted November 9, 2018 at 9:51 am | Permalink

    So dreadful it was known as “The war to end all wars”.

    The single biggest difference that would arise from doing things better is to ensure there are proper trials of alleged war criminal leaders. The Chilcots of this world need not be relied upon.

    The next difference is for this country to avoid unnecessary entanglements with foreign powers – so no more Ukraine nuclear treaty guarantees and repudiation of May’s signing up to defence commitments to the (increasingly belligerent) Evil Empire.

  13. Bob
    Posted November 9, 2018 at 10:01 am | Permalink

    @Giles

    “How many would today?”

    Have you seen how our govt treats soldiers returning from combat these days? My kids were even told never to wear their uniforms when travelling to and from CCF training, for their own safety.

    Those returning from tours of duty are subjected to investigation into their behaviour in the field of battle under the threat of imprisonment. They are told not to wear their uniform in public as it may provoke abusive reactions to them, including not being welcome in shops and catering establishments. Greenwich Council even tried to remove Fusilier Lee Rigby’s memorial plaque because it might offend some people.

    Do you get the picture?

    • Christine
      Posted November 9, 2018 at 3:25 pm | Permalink

      It is truly shocking, is it not, Bob? While in the USA President Trump honours those who serve their country, here in the U.K. the Establishment fails to support soldiers both in the field and after the conflict. The hounding of soldiers who served in Northern Ireland and Iraq, and even of young squaddies having an innocent picture taken with Tommy Robinson, is truly disgraceful. It makes me ashamed of my own country.

  14. Adam
    Posted November 9, 2018 at 10:07 am | Permalink

    Being peaceful & prepared are the better ways of prevention & defence. We should be both.

  15. Denis Cooper
    Posted November 9, 2018 at 10:19 am | Permalink

    I recently read this book, “The Shortest History of Germany” by James Hawes:

    https://www.spectator.co.uk/2017/04/europes-best-hope/

    “Prussia was the problem, says James Hawes. Before Bismarck, rich, enchanting Germany was of no great interest to historians”

    Well, that isn’t quite what the book says, as it was the British who agreed to Prussia, or “East Elbia”:

    https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/sep/02/germany-elbe-river-cultural-divide-east-west-federal-elections

    taking over the richer western parts of Germany after Waterloo.

    • Anonymous
      Posted November 9, 2018 at 2:40 pm | Permalink

      Contrast with Andy’s vacuous comment @ 9.45.

      According to him Brexit voters are too uneducated to be listened to.

  16. Cheshire Girl
    Posted November 9, 2018 at 10:38 am | Permalink

    I would have loved to have watched that debate, but I travelled to London on the 6th, so I missed it. Maybe it will be on the Parliament channel some other time.

  17. Anonymous
    Posted November 9, 2018 at 10:42 am | Permalink

    A beautifully written post.

    How much will this hurt ? Will I witness my own mutilation ? Am I man enough ? Will I shame myself in battle ? Will I ever see mother again ?

    I am blessed not to have spent my youth preoccupied with such questions. No surprise that the popular music of those times was so jaunty. To quieten those maddening questions it had to be.

    Reply Thanks. I just spoke in the debate. I did not write this, which is why some of the sentences could be better worked.

  18. Hugh Rose
    Posted November 9, 2018 at 10:59 am | Permalink

    “….as someone who was 17, 18, 19, 20 or whatever they were—where they had no normal social life and no normal family life apart from very rushed periods of leave, when they could not pursue their normal sports and leisure pursuits …”

    We should remember just as much (or even more) the many older men who died or were wounded. They often left behind wives and children who would suffer economic privation as well as the sad loss of a husband and a father figure. A nation losing its young men to war is sad because of what might have been but the loss its older married men with families is a double tragedy.

    “…..the shells, the bombs, the rifle bullets, the snipers and the machine guns.”

    GAS was probably the most horrible weapon of the First World War. This was recognised by Owen who died 100 years ago today and those civilised countries which outlawed its use after the event. Of course nobody trusts any potential enemy, so stockpiles and research continue but a quick look at which counties have used gas or chemicals since makes it easy to a judge the morality of the governments concerned.

    “…,.with the explosion of two atomic bombs to bring it to a very sad conclusion.”

    Many fathers of those alive today (in many nations) would not have survived the conventional invasion of Japan. The conclusion of a war is never sad. The loss of life caused by the two atomic bombs was insignificant compared to what would have been suffered had The Allies to invade Japan. The bomb casualties were comparable to the German losses in 1918 (to say nothing of the total losses when Allied losses suffered in the final battles to end WW1 are added.) In addition the use of those atomic bombs finally brought it home to politicians and those who vote for them the consequences of all out warfare which has been avoided since because they too are likely to be involved.

    • SecretPeople
      Posted November 9, 2018 at 7:13 pm | Permalink

      >We should remember just as much (or even more) the many older men who died or were wounded. They often left behind wives and children

      Hugh, I was thinking the same thing. My great grandfather died at Rouen (barely ever mentioned) but only after having married and had 6 children. Sadly, his two sons – born in the same year – died in the same year in WWII, aged 25, before they had had chance to marry and have children.

  19. Den
    Posted November 9, 2018 at 11:13 am | Permalink

    It is especially gratifying to learn that young school children are now being taught our own history. In particular this, the Great War and the terrible WW2. Only then can the new generation appreciate what our forefather sacrificed for us.
    I gather from reports in the past that the then Labour Government had, apparently, all but obliterated this history from the school books and that was a disgraceful act on their part, more in keeping with the Communist doctrines.
    Speaking of doctrines, the only way to combat the EU’s indoctrination within our Educational system is to continue providing the factual history to all pupils and students.
    It is of no surprise, therefore, to see that a very high percentage of this group actually want to Remain in the EU, ignoring the proud history of this country when they know no different than that they are presented with. Therefore Britsh History is a must in all types of schools.
    Being spoon-fed EU propaganda without counter arguments is not the democratic way to educate.

  20. Nick
    Posted November 9, 2018 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

    John, as with you, both of my grandfathers served through the Great War and were fortunate to come through the carnage alive albeit doubtlessly deeply affected but stoic. Neither of them spoke directly to me about their experiences as I was only a young child when they both passed away of natural causes in the 1970’s. Whilst I have not as yet been able to trace my maternal grandfathers war record I have researched my paternal grandfathers involvement through his Brigade’s records at Kew and his own personal diary for 1917. He enlisted as a 19 year old in November 2015 and served through until May 1919 and was in action at The Somme, Ypres (including Passchendaele), Arras, Cambrai, the Hindenburg Line and 100 years ago today still in action SW of Mons as part of the 100 day offensive advance. His personal diary is sporadic but nonetheless poignant with references to, amongst others, being buried alive by shell debris, seeing his mates fingers being blown off, burying colleagues, gas attacks, dead horses as well as notes on the weather and upliftingly hearing a cuckoo the day after the capture of Rouex in May 1917. Quite how the cuckoo survived is anyone’s guess. A mix of carnage, brutality and humility.

    Naturally I feel most fortunate that both my grandfathers survived otherwise I would not have been around myself. But, moreover it becomes compelling to reflect on the individuals in their tens, hundreds, thousands and millions killed who did not get the chance to live on and enjoy life and families. Unfathomable.

    John, you do indeed speak for England, thank you.

    PS I appreciate you are limited in what you can do as a backbencher but if you haven’t already please put your letter in to the 1922 before we are sold out (again).

  21. Jacey
    Posted November 9, 2018 at 12:36 pm | Permalink

    My grandfather died of wounds received at Gallipoli in the First World War, my father fought in the Second World War but survived and I have always been keenly aware that I have been extremely fortunate not to have gone to war as they had to do. In the light of this I was appalled by the comments of M. Macron a few days ago about the need for a European Army to defend us against China, Russia and even the U.S.A. The guarantor of the security of Europe in the post-Second World War period has been N.A.T.O. which is, of course, underpinned by the U.S.A military. It has been a system that has served us well. M.Macron if it isn’t broke don’t fix it.

    • davies
      Posted November 9, 2018 at 2:16 pm | Permalink

      One reason why I voted for BREXIT, I could see PESCO emerging and would never trust the French not to try to use this as their toy.

      They do not have the best history, Vietman, Algeria etc

    • BenM
      Posted November 9, 2018 at 8:09 pm | Permalink

      Jacey..problem is ..it is broke..Trump saw to that and the US cannot be trusted to help us anymore. We have to stand up now like Macron says and seek a new way to defend ourselves as a part of NATO yes, but also as Europeans in order to have the security we need especially regarding Putins Russia and Xi’s China

      • Mark B
        Posted November 10, 2018 at 10:23 am | Permalink

        No ! President Trump asked ALL members to contribute at least 2% of the GDP to their own defence, as they are required to do so as NATO members. What President Macron wants to do is undermine NATO and have PESCO as a French toy to maintain their interests in Africa.

      • a-tracy
        Posted November 12, 2018 at 11:38 am | Permalink

        I disagree BenM, I heard Trump asking for an equal contribution to peace from every nation at 2% of their GDP there should be no exceptions to these, even peaceable Countries like Ireland and Belgium who want to be neutral should pay towards peacekeeping forces, they should not rest on the backs of other Europeans or Americans.

  22. Past not exists1984
    Posted November 9, 2018 at 1:27 pm | Permalink

    I do not know what was being said in Parliament prior to the War 1914-1918.
    I’m sure we would be aware unless ….
    Are there any similarities with Defence issues discussed in The House now? Are any speeches made now,though obviously infinitely more repetitive with wandering points, comparative with former ones? I know the answers.I have not investigated but I know. We all know.
    Remoaners will block any discussion on the matter in detail. Mr Speaker is sure to keep everyone in the present. Has he gone yet? Is it presently?

  23. rose
    Posted November 9, 2018 at 1:28 pm | Permalink

    Ulster suffered grievous losses at the Battle of the Somme. Perhaps someone may remind the PM of this great sacrifice before she casts it out of the Union.

  24. Oracle
    Posted November 9, 2018 at 1:41 pm | Permalink

    Our Defence needs a massive ramp-up.
    You do not need to have experienced the prelude to either WWI nor WWII to feel the momentum in Europe.
    We should drop our objectivity for what it was ever worth in preludes to war.
    Know there will trouble. The EU negotiations are there for all of us to feel unlike before where most of us could not hear and see such objective reassurance that what we feel is correct.
    Social media shows the massive violence on their streets every …single…day. No let up.
    The same players too up top, Too young.
    “The EU is anchored off our shore, it isn’t going away”~Hammond on one of his few good days.

  25. Ron Olden
    Posted November 9, 2018 at 2:07 pm | Permalink

    In a few days time we’ll able to say that there’s only been one war with Germany in the past 100 years. In 37 years time, people will be able to say there’ve been none.

    There might be a select few people alive now, for whom the First World War, is, further away than the Battle of Waterloo was, when they were born.

    I watched the British Army Football Association v German Bundeswehr, ‘Game of Remembrance’ on BBC Sport last night played in Nottingham.

    It’s nice to watch even if you only look at pre match National Anthems and Last Post. So here’s the link. The British Army took it’s Ceremonial Ram.

    It was really nice to see so many children there. Particularly the Ladies Game played at Mid Day.

    It’s sad really the crowd was so small. But it’s to be expected. By televised football standards, the actual games themselves were terrible, no one cared who won anyway, and they received no advance publicity.

    Perhaps some money could have be found from sponsors to take children from schools all over the country and made it a bigger event.

    Needless to say the Germans won both games.

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/live/football/45968760

  26. English Pensioner
    Posted November 9, 2018 at 4:00 pm | Permalink

    Over the years I’ve visited many small English villages and looked in their churches. I am always appalled by the number of times the same surname appears on many WW1 memorials. They may not have all been brothers, but were obviously all relations. On one memorial, I noticed about twenty names but just three different surnames. The families must really have suffered losing so many men within the same extended family.

  27. Steve
    Posted November 9, 2018 at 5:39 pm | Permalink

    The notion of anyone who is intent on destroying our sovereignty on one hand, yet appearing to commemorate those who gave their lives for that sovereignty and freedom, just doesn’t seem right to me.

    I don’t know whether to call it hypocrisy or cheap stunt.

    Either way, those who wish to have the nation enslaved to foreign powers and being allowed to attend remembrance services for those who died to keep this country a free and independent sovereign democracy, in my opinion is actually quite offensive.

  28. mancunius
    Posted November 9, 2018 at 10:31 pm | Permalink

    JR – a reminder that you and other MPs must vigilantly challenge the secretive government plan to hand over our armed forces to EU control.

    • Stred
      Posted November 10, 2018 at 10:02 am | Permalink

      Sky news reports that Donald has arrived in France to meet Napoleon and others about defence. He tweeted that he was not pleased that Emmanuel had said that Europe needed an army to defend against Russia and the USA and that Europe needs to pay more to NATO.
      The reporter then explained that this was another rude tweet and went on to explain that the UK of course did not agree with having an EU army.
      Here we have a journalist working for a main news channel who does not know that May has signed us up to serve PESCO using KitKat tactics.

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