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Nov 092008
 

Today is Remembrance Sunday; a day to remember those killed in war. It should perhaps be on the 11th November (this year on a Tuesday), but the British government is too cheap to give us all a day off for remembrance.

As this is the 90th anniversary of the armistance of world war i, it is perhaps understandable that some concentrate on the dead of that war. As a general rule one of the things we remember when we remember the dead of the wars, is that they died for our freedom. For the wars since that is definitely on the true side, but perhaps not for WWI …

After all WWI started when the Austrian-Hungarian “dual monarchy” declared war on Serbia after Serbian military intelligence had been involved in assisting the assassination of a Grand-Duke. Russia was pulled in to support Serbia, and the rest of the European ‘powers’ were similarly pulled into the war.

But that is over simplistic – historians are still arguing over the causes of WWI. But what is clear is that there was initially no great villain that needed bringing down although many of the men who volunteered to fight were led to believe (in the case of Britain) that Germany was some sort of great villain.

To those who survived WWI, Rememberance Day was less a day for remembering those who died for our freedom, than just remembering the dead. It is difficult to appreciate the level of casualties today, but one clue is on the lists of the dead given on memorials in almost every little village. Probably just about everyone living in Britain in the 1920s would have been close to someone who had died in WWI.

To put it into statistical terms, Britain lost 2.1% of its population in WWI compared to 0.93% in WWII.

Some of the blame for the horrendous level of casualties can be placed at the door at the incompetant military leadership who took far too long to adjust to 20th century warfare from their 19th century mindsets. Or in the words of more than a few, the British army were “Lions led by donkeys”.

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