RSS

Tag Archives: Trench warfare

Ordinary men.

They were just ordinary men with families, jobs and hopes. They stood and chatted with each other, comparing notes about family and friends, showing photographs of loved ones and sharing food, drink and cigarettes. Only a few hours earlier they had been shooting at each other on a battlefield and only a few hours later they would recommence on the ground they were standing on and kill those same men just like themselves with the same hopes and ambitions.

The 1914 unofficial Christmas truce is a well-known occurrence early in the First World War, the war to end all wars or the Great War. In Late December the soldiers and officers of the British Army were disappointed that they were still in France. The popular scenario bandied about was that it would all be over before Christmas. It wasn’t and they weren’t.

At that moment the British Army was made up of full-time professional soldiers whereas the German Army were mainly conscripts. The trench system was still in its infancy but still men were being killed at levels, which can only be described as criminal and would of course later become wholesale slaughter.

The accounts of the truce are better known now, less so the two sides doing the very least they could to shoot each other on a daily basis. No one wanted to die. Why would they? Choices? Oh sure. Take your place in the attack and the enemy shoot you decline to take part and your own side shoot you. So much for choices then.

“We don’t want to fight on this day or any other” is a quote from a German soldier during the truce, it kind of sums up all wars past, present and future. Ordinary men and women who don’t want to fight and military and political leaders who don’t see themselves as ordinary and who want OTHERs to fight on their behalf for aims which are at best dubious and at worst ill considered and meaningless.

At this time of year we’ve enjoyed Christmas and the Christmas spirit bringing cheer to all men. We have New Year to come when we regard the year we’ve survived and look forward with optimism to the year ahead. We take time out to remember those who are no longer with us and to hope that those less fortunate than ourselves find life easier in 2015.

We all should be actively pursuing good works, which give our lives more value and meaning. There are those who will do no such thing and will selfishly pursue their own agenda.

We’ll get lectured on what we should eat, smoke, drink, say, etc.

We just want to be ordinary people doing ordinary things.

 

 

 

 

Advertisements
 

Tags: , , , ,

Birdsong

This article was originally published on Subrosa Blonde Blog and is reproduced here with permissions.

The BBC have been heavily advertising their new shiny two-episode Birdsong programme based on the book by Sebastian Faulkes. The adverts showed a few scenes and looked interesting but I wasn’t convinced. I’d hoped that Spielberg might have picked it up or Saul Zaentz the producer of films like The English Patient, One Flew over the Cuckoos Nest, The unbearable lightness of being etc.

Zaentz could produce a film, heavy on the romantic side and treated with respect and care. Spielberg could bring realism to it as he previously did with “Saving Private Ryan”. If that film was about anything at all it was about the true horror of war rather than the censored versions we’ve been spoon-fed.

I just wasn’t sure I should watch it. What if it was a poor reflection of the book? What if the story was diluted? What if, what if, what if? It’s one of my top ten favourite books and I have the greatest of respect for the men who fought and were slaughtered in action during the First World War.

I decided to watch it. I thought I could stop if it wasn’t to my liking. However, I was pleasantly surprised, it wasn’t bad. Not as “real’ and the romantic part wasn’t overdone, so far so good.

Having the Great War brought back to the fore as it were, has reminded me of two things; the poetry created by the likes of Wilfred Owen, Siegfried Sassoon and Rupert Brook to name but three. I really must go and visit the War Poets Collection at the Craiglockhart Campus of Napier University. Owen and Sassoon were there during the war when it was a hospital.

The other thing it has reminded me off is that for all the cost in human terms that “the war to end all wars” was supposed to be we just haven’t learned the lesson. Here we are almost a hundred years down the road and there has rarely been a gap between conflicts. The recent Iraq and Afghanistan actions reinforced the incompetence of the MOD and the failings in the services procurement system. Soldiers’ lives have been lost as a consequence. Vehicles were inadequate in the protection they were supposed to provide, costing young men their lives. Body armour being shared rather than being available to all, again cost lives. The Americans do things slightly differently. They aim to send their forces out with the weapons and kit significantly better than the enemy. They’ve just started rolling out a gun which fires a grenade accurately over long distances and can then be detonated at a point chosen by the person firing it. They can now hit targets hiding behind walls barricades etc. A game changer apparently although war is only a game if it’s played on a PlayStation or X-box.

Unfortunately our sabre-rattling politicians are lining up the next conflict. Iran. Like we need another conflict.

Men and women sign up to join the forces. When they join up and take the Queens shilling they can expect to see action but they should also be protected and only put in danger if it is the last resort. Even then they should have the best kit, if they don’t have the best kit or even appropriate kit for the job they should not be put in danger.

Most incriminating of all of our various governments over the years however, is that if our forces are injured they should get the best treatment possible and if their injury means they need care and support for the rest of their lives the state should pay, ending the reliance on charity which is an insulting way to treat our service men and women. The state should also provide a reasonable level of financial support to the partner and children left behind if a life is lost and this should continue as long as it is needed.

War, conflict or whatever name people wish to call it is disgusting and inhumane, the way our forces and their dependents are treated should never be disgusting and inhumane; when planning the Scottish Defence Force Alex could do well to bear that in mind.

I don’t think the Scottish people want our forces involved in any conflicts, perhaps Alex should seek a mandate from the Scottish people, it’s far too important a decision for him or his government to take on their own?

 
 

Tags: , , , , ,