Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Changing ideals.

All the discussion, all the symbolism attending the hundred years remembrance of the start of the "great war" pin point very neatly how our ideas of right and wrong have changed during those years.

How we look at ideals, how we consider what is morally right or wrong has changed considerably as those people charged with molesting the young and defenceless have found to their cost many years after the event.

The recruitment of young men to go and fight for their country in 1914 was unashamedly vivid and aimed at a moral conscience that thought it cowardly not to go and fight in the trenches over strips of contested land.

The urging of young men to go and fight was shown on huge posters showing a pointing hand..."Your country needs you! "

For the young men who did not respond women were encouraged to give their men a white feather...to show their cowardice.

Young men who found themselves unable to fight because of moral or religious ideals were labelled "conchies" and sent out to carry the dead or wounded back to their trenches.

It was an age when there was only one way to conduct your life and any attempt to buck that trend was treated with disgust and worse!

Once recruited the men were treated as canon fodder, sent into battle and very many were killed. The losses recorded daily in the papers were enormous!

It was not glorious. The men who came home were changed, often for life. My grandad had been gassed. He spent the rest of his life coughing but thought himself lucky to have survived!

It's hard to imagine today the sort of hysteria that persuaded young men that to go and die for their country was an act of selfless courage.

Times have changed...attitudes are different now. The way we perceive morality is filtered through what we know or think we know of past generations beliefs.

As we remember those who gave their lives, as the stories of heroism are retold I try to think of those who went to war not really understanding what they were fighting for beyond a gut wrenching nationalistic pride because their country needed them.

They were all heroes, some just barely men....I pray for all those whose lives were ended or changed by war.....we shall remember them.


  1. I know from my own talking to WW1 veterans, now all sadly gone, that many signed up for the excitement and experience or adventure. Many to escape a background of deprivation or work in heavy industries that seemed hopeless with nothing to look forward too, but a life of drudgery.

    The glamour attached to war had been trashed by the expperiences of those in the BOER war who come back maimed or sickened by the slaughter. But 'spin' of the day, portrayed what had happened as a glorious victory, ignoring the treatment of the BOER women and children put into concentration camps, many of who suffered and died as the hands of the British Government policy. We tend to forget that our use of Concentration camps preceded those of the NAZI's by 40 years or so.

    I too joined the Army in the sixties for the excitement, adventure, travel and sport and to escape the mundane life I had in a troubled home in London. Some 2 years later I found myself in Northern Ireland on peacekeeping - I won't say anymore about that, but any illusions of glamour, adventure or travel disappeared, although the adrenaline rush that it gave overcame the fear we all had at the time.

    I served for 43 years - a lifetime, a vocation, and in the final years was recruiting and training young men and women to be sent to fight in wars that I and they didn't understand, on the whim of politicians who were deluded enough to think that we're the worlds policemen? It's been a joke and many young lives have been lost or damaged for something elusive a just war.

    As a soldier you're taught that the way to win is to be aggressive and it's trained into you. And many who join do enjoy that aspect of military life, but I wonder at what cost to their mental or physical health or moral character in the longer term. The thousands of returning veterans suffering from severe mental and physical disability is evidence that war isn't glamorous, it's damaging and can radically alter both your character, morale and physical condition. The experiences that some describe of seeing their mates blown to pieces in front of them are the stuff of nightmares, and like many who returned from previous wars, will trouble them for life.

    War is a deadly, dirty, nasty, cruel business. The victims are those who are caught in the middle as Gaza, Syria, The Sudan, Nigeria, Afghanistan and so on, amply demonstrates to us. Yet we go on doing the very things that cause the damage.

    I honour those who served and died, but find it ironic to listen to a Prime Minister whose actions belie his words. Politicians of all sorts shouldn't hold high office until they've served and looked death in the face for what it's is the end of promising lives for no purpose, other than politicians lack of ability to preach and work for peace, not war.

    1. Very many thanks for that....the views of a man who has actually served is invaluable....