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WW1. Celebrate or just quietly remember?

(39 Posts)
papaoscar Mon 06-Jan-14 17:19:50

My grandfather and many other relations were either soldiers or nurses etc., in WW1. They never spoke about it but my father said it haunted most of them afterwards. 100 years later how should we, most of whom have never been called upon to suffer as they did (thank goodness!) remember their sacrifice?

mollie Mon 06-Jan-14 17:30:19

My family lost members during the Somme so the war touched us too. I don't think it was a great victory for so many reasons, we lost too many man for very little gain and the sanctions sowed the seeds for WW2 so why celebrate? We should mark it some how but my choice would be quiet reflective remembrance and not some great meaningless show.

kittylester Mon 06-Jan-14 17:46:47

We shouldn't celebrate the war but we should celebrate the brave men who went to war and acknowledge the women who waited, many in vain. We should acknowledge that it happened, in the hope that it won't happen again.

goldengirl Mon 06-Jan-14 17:54:00

It should be marked in some way but I agree with Mollie that it should not be some great meaningless show. Educational programmes in schools, lectures and talks about the historical background and a replay of the excellent war series on WWI perhaps. The latter had a profound effect on me I must say.

jinglbellrocks Mon 06-Jan-14 18:41:43

You can hardly "celebrate" it! Commemorate it definitely.

Nelliemoser Mon 06-Jan-14 18:50:10

The futility of the 1914-1918 war should be remembered as a warning how not to behave.

The countries involved were so hooked up on their Nationalistic pride and Imperialist ideals they did not even consider other ways of dealing with the situation.
WW2 was a very different situation.

As Wilfred Owen put it..

"My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori."

papaoscar Mon 06-Jan-14 19:12:30

You express views with which I agree. Remember not celebrate. I am concerned that the anniversary should not be high-jacked by jingoistic politicians or others for xenophobic or other reasons. I am concerned by Mr Gove's recent bombastic attempt to broadcast his own partisan version of WW1 and would rather the government spend £50m on preventing future wars than propagating false myths. Those who suffered were innocent heroes. Those who caused their suffering were monsters unworthy to be called human beings.

Mishap Mon 06-Jan-14 20:41:10

I so agree with you papaoscar. It gives me the creeps on Remembrance Sunday when politicians are out there vying for the best camera angle - finger down throat emoticon required here.

I am not sure how it might best be commemorated. I am very much against flogging the subject to primary school children - I think it should only be taught to those in secondary school.

As in most wars, it was the innocent and powerless who suffered and we must find a way of remembering and honouring them. I do not think it needs to cost a lot of money - maybe there should be a collection to improve the lot of those new innocent and powerless people who are fighting wars at the behest of their political masters.

Maybe the commemoration should be in the form of a joint occasion to include all sides in the conflict. Innocent and powerless German soldiers were sent to their deaths too.

pinkprincess Mon 06-Jan-14 21:04:52

My family suffered losses as well.
My DH's uncle was killed in the closing months of 1918 at the age of 22. After DH's mother died we found among her photos one of her brother, in his uniform, sitting beside his girlfriend.MIL had wrote on the back,'' my brother (name) on leave from the war. He was killed when he went back.''
She hardly mentioned him, but clearly treasured his last photo.

My grandmother had a cousin who was also killed in 1918, aged just 18. She named my uncle, born three years later, after him.

When I was a child WW2 was still fresh in everyone's minds.They hardly spoke of WW1.

sunflowersuffolk Mon 06-Jan-14 21:08:48

Apparently recently on the Celebrity Jungle programme, one of the participants, Joey, was asked when the First World War ended, and said something ridiculous like 1987.

This made me wonder what the "younger generation" know about WW1. I asked people at work when they war ended, (not stupid) all under 30, and several didn't know - 1920 ish, 1917, were the best guesses.

I was saddened and disappointed to think they either hadn't been taught this at school, and that all that sacrifice and bloodshed has been forgotten by the younger generation, or that they just aren't touched by it.

Maybe what should happen is that a lot of informative programes should be shown on TV - but I suppose they wouldn't watch them any way. I don't know what is taught at school now - but it's very sad.

Elegran Mon 06-Jan-14 22:01:14

My grandmother lost two brothers and a cousin in WW1, within a few months of each other. One brother had been a piano tuner, the other a signwriter, before they found themselves in the trenches. I don't think she or her parents or her sister would like the thought of celebrating the war.

Deedaa Mon 06-Jan-14 22:06:18

50 years ago when I was at college we spent a term studying the First World War as part of our liberal studies. It was of course the 50th Anniversary then. We hadn't covered it when I was at school, but I learned so much about it at college and read All Quiet On The Western Front and Goodbye To All That and of course Wilfred Owen's poetry. I think the 100th anniversary will be a great opportunity to educate today's teenagers about the war and all that it meant.
Does anyone remember a drama series the BBC did years ago about a young country boy going off to join the Royal Flying Corps? I should love to see it repeated now.

absent Mon 06-Jan-14 22:37:11

No war is a cause for celebration but the "war to end all wars" is undoubtedly one for deep thought and sad remembrance. Aussies and Kiwis – all generations – will never forget the travesty of Gallipoli. There is a military museum in the North Island with a war memorial that consists of walls lined with greenstone (New Zealand jade) with a constant stream of water trickling down them. In the centre is the book of remembrance. A solemn but not pompous recorded voice reads through the book over and over – names, ranks, ages and place of death. Visiting there was one of the most moving experiences of my life.

grannyactivist Mon 06-Jan-14 23:43:21

My children all studied WWII at Primary school and then covered WWI in History lessons at High School. There is also an annual trip to Auschwiz for seniors who are doing History at A level. I do think that it's important to teach about such history and to provide a 'child appropriate' curriculum that can be built on in later years.
However, the 'anniversary' of the start of WWI should be commemorated by funding a school theme based on 'peace studies' in my view. We can never know, but I think many of those who died would approve of teaching children skills such as conflict resolution, co-operation, compromise, team building, positive affirmation etc. alongside facts about war.

Granny23 Tue 07-Jan-14 00:37:56

For me, the most poignant description of the effect of WW1 and its aftermath on ordinary people is in Lewis Grassic Gibbons 'Sunset Song', probably because the characters are drawn from the small farming communities of Aberdeenshire where my Grandparents were born. My own Grandfather was rejected for service when he became old enough because he was the only son left, his two elder brothers having already been enlisted and killed. Grandfather called HIS two eldest sons after his brothers and did everything in his power to dissuade them from joining up in WWII. Fortunately for GF both sons were declared essential war workers (electrical engineers) although my Father was drafted to Gillingham near London for highly secret work on aeroplanes and was 'at home' when the factory was bombed and 'at work' when his lodgings were flattened by a land mine and also strafed on a train. One of the big differences between the 2 WWs was that in the second the Home Front could be just as dangerous as the front line.

absent Tue 07-Jan-14 02:29:14

It is of course obvious why there is a fanfare for the 100th anniversary for the start of World War I. With an election in 2015, today's politicians have no certainty that they will be in the public eye and important enough to feature in celebrations of the 100th anniversary of its end in 2018 – and they can't resist the opportunity to strut and fret their hour upon the stage in borrowed plumes to show how statesmen-like they are.

Sorry about all the mixed imagery.

FlicketyB Tue 07-Jan-14 08:24:46

I lost at least 4 family members in WW1, including my grandfather, three within six months. I think the next four years are a time for commemoration. Nobody, I know has suggested we celebrate it.

I am with Michael Gove when he says attitudes to WW1 are too governed by Black Adder and Oh what a lovely war. I have recently been rewatching the 26 episode history of WW1 made by the BBC in the 1960s and following that reading around the causes of the war and German aggression and its threats to Britain were as much the cause of WW1 as WW2.

War is not a choice between killing and not killing. It is a choice of who dies.An uncle of mine, an emotional pacifist, once asked me what difference it would made to us if we had refused to fight and let Hitler occupy us. I began listing all the groups of people in Britain who would have been killed by the Nazis; the Jews, homosexuals, politically active people, the disabled. the list is endless.

Like most people I opposed the Iraq war but I was very conscience that this would not a choice between killing and not killing. I opposed the war because there was no justification for it. Saddam Hussein was a sadistic Dictator but had breached no international law and had no connections with Al Q'aida. However I was well aware that one of the results of not going to war was that were many people in Iraq who would die as victims of Saddam Hussein's vicious regime who might otherwise have been saved.

sunseeker Tue 07-Jan-14 10:48:34

Commemorate yes, celebrate no. Who was it who said those who forget mistakes are destined to make them again (or something like that).

Photographs of young people urinating on war memorials and their later defence being they didn't know what they stood for make me very sad. Isn't this an argument for teaching the reasons for both WW, including the mistakes that were made and what, with hindsight, could have been done to prevent them.

Elegran Tue 07-Jan-14 14:14:51

"A nation that forgets its past is doomed to repeat it." - Winston Churchill

sunseeker Tue 07-Jan-14 14:51:25

Thanks Elegran - I seem to be able to remember (sort of) quotes just never who said them!

jinglbellrocks Tue 07-Jan-14 14:53:39

It's not so much the mixed imagery Absent. It's the cynicism! grin

Elegran Tue 07-Jan-14 15:20:28

sunseeker I remembered enough of it ( . . "nation that forgets its past" . . .) to be able to search for it. It should be framed and displayed where all MPs have to pass it daily.

Penstemmon Tue 07-Jan-14 15:35:52

WW1 is on the curriculum both in primary and secondary schools and I am sure all teachers here will know of assemblies and events in schools to teach children about WW1. It is not a case of not teaching it.

I recall learning the War poets in English literature (O Level) in the 60s and it having an impact on me. My two great aunts lost a husband and fiancee to the war and never married/marries again. My grandfather died aged 50 as a result of war damage though some years later.

I think the issue with commemorating the war is that there are two opposing opinions who are 'warring' about the war!

Those who would like to promote a memory of 'glorious Britain' and a justified conflict and those who would prefer to promote the memory of those who died & the tragedy of war.

I agree with Grannyactivist that we should use the commemoration to teach children and young people about conflict resolution and also to promote organisations like the UN, Red Cross. Red Crescent etc. and all those organisations that work to bring peoples together after war.

We should never ignore the reasons why countries make the decision to fight because if we do how do we ever begin to learn to avoid those situations again. However sometimes the reasons countries go to war are ugly and not noble and sometimes that might apply to GB sad

goldengirl Tue 07-Jan-14 16:35:30

I would have been at primary school age when my dad's friend came round. He had a bayonet scar down the side of his face. Even at that tender age I realised what WW1 actually involved and Dad used to read me war poetry which I found incredibly moving - and still do.
I visited Fromelles about 3 years ago now where my Aussie grandad was wounded and some of the war graves in the area. Seeing those rows upon rows of headstones and standing for the ceremony at the Menin Gate I found incredibly moving. I've read a lot about WW1 - particularly about the 'ordinary' Tommy but seeing the aftermath for myself affected me deeply. The visit to Poperinghe where even teenagers were shot at dawn was very affecting.
I dread the politicians putting in their twopenn'orth. David Cameron's 'pained' face is so insincere.

rosesarered Tue 07-Jan-14 17:38:12

Answering the original question ; I think it should be reflective, as others have suggested. So little is known of it by the young generation [45 and below] as to be almost ridiculous.We cannot now address this suddenly and forcefeed war docu on tv.In schools, for years there has only been the second world war taught in history, in fact almost nothing else!Also, as someone has said, nothing should be taught to primary age children.
In secondary schools, the bare facts about the causes of the first war should be taught before next year [bet they won't be] and the school library can display any books of fiction or non fiction that is suitable, that is about the Great War [to end all wars, that was a bitter laugh, wasn't it?]
Since there is nobody now alive that took an active part [soldiers] in that war, perhaps families who are able to talk to children about the part that their own Grandfather played could do so? There are also recordings from old soldiers, that are very moving.