Category Archives: World War I

World War I Propaganda 100 Years On

From Disinfo:

3g10883u-23’100 years ago this month, hostilities broke out in the most hellish war the world had seen at the time.  Naively, we thought that this was the “War to End All Wars,” as though the memory of atrocity and suffering were the best safeguard against it!  Here is some World War I propaganda various nations used to incite people to participate in throwing away lives for no reason. What will the propaganda inciting people to participate in throwing away lives for no reason look like in our next war?

See more propaganda on a previous post here.

Head over to WW1 for the entire collection.’


40 Maps Explaining World War I

Zack Beauchamp, Timothy B. Lee and Matthew Yglesias write for Vox:

‘One hundred years ago, on June 28, 1914, the Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria-Hungary was assassinated by Serbian terrorists. The murder set off a chain reaction that plunged much of the world into war. The Great War killed 10 million people, redrew the map of Europe, and marked the rise of the United States as a global power. Here are 40 maps that explain the conflict — why it started, how the Allies won, and why the world has never been the same.

European alliances in 19141. European alliances in 1914

Immediately prior to the war’s outbreak in 1914, Central Europe was dominated by two powerful states: Germany to the north and its weaker cousin, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, to the South. The two countries formed the core of the Central Powers, also known as the Quadruple Alliance because they were joined after war began by Bulgaria and the Ottoman Empire (modern Turkey). The other major pre-war alliance was the Triple Entente, a pact between Russia, Great Britain, and France (called the Allied Powers during the war). These alliances set the stage for a massive war: any dispute between two members of these blocs could pull in all of the others, as the treaties committed these states to defending their allies. And that’s exactly what happened.’


The Western-Imposed Partition of the Middle East Is Dead

Robert Fisk writes for The Independent:

‘“Sykes-Picot is dead,” Walid Jumblatt roared at me last night – and he may well be right. The Lebanese Druze leader – who fought in a 15-year civil war that redrew the map of Lebanon – believes that the new battles for Sunni Muslim jihadi control of northern and eastern Syria and western Iraq have finally destroyed the post-World War Anglo-French conspiracy, hatched by Mark Sykes and François Picot, which divided up the old Ottoman Middle East into Arab statelets controlled by the West.

The Islamic Caliphate of Iraq and Syria has been fought into existence – however temporarily – by al-Qa’ida-affiliated Sunni fighters who pay no attention to the artificial borders of Syria, Iraq, Lebanon or Jordan, or even mandate Palestine, created by the British and French. Their capture of the city of Mosul only emphasises the collapse of the secret partition plan which the Allies drew up in the First World War – for Mosul was sought after for its oil wealth by both Britain and France.

The entire Middle East has been haunted by the Sykes-Picot agreement, which also allowed Britain to implement Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour’s 1917 promise to give British support to the creation of a Jewish “homeland” in Palestine. Perhaps only today’s Arabs (and Israelis) fully understand the profound historical changes – and deep political significance – that the extraordinary battles of this past week have wrought on the old colonial map of the Middle East.’



Europe’s Landscape Is Still Scarred by World War I

Kirstin Fawcett writes for Smithsonian Mag:

‘Even today, a century after the start of the Great War, the countryside still bears scars. In this image by Irish landscape photographer Michael St. Maur Sheil at the site of the Battle of the Somme, in northern France, you can trace grass-covered trenches and pockmarks from exploded bombshells. More than a million men were wounded or killed in the battle, the first major British offensive of the war. “The Germans had been sitting in a deep dugout excavated into the chalk rock,” Sheil says. “British soldiers advancing across the flat landscape were an easy target.” His exhibition, “Fields of Battle—Lands of Peace,” now on display in Paris along the wrought-iron fence of Luxembourg Gardens and later touring the United Kingdom, includes 79 contemporary photographs of World War I battlefields—the artist’s attempt to document the enduring legacy of the war on the landscape.’


Beach hunt by British Navy for WW2 explosives

From BBC News:

Unexploded shells‘A beach shut by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) two weeks ago after World War Two explosives and ammunition were found will now not reopen until June. Disposal teams cleared ordnance from sections of East and West beaches in Shoeburyness, Essex, but the Royal Navy is carrying out a further survey.

The MoD said it recognised the concerns of visitors, residents and businesses. It would take two weeks to analyse the survey before the council could decide to reopen the beach, the MoD said. The beach area is owned by the MoD but has public access and is popular with visitors and residents.’

My father and uncle stood against the tide when they refused to fight in the First World War

Chris Lawson writes for No Glory:

Concientious objectors

“It was very interesting to see the rough ‘palliness’ which existed between the different nationalities, including German PoWs, for instance over the exchange of cigarettes, crumpled family pictures etc.” There were times when they carried captured German soldiers. My father’s comments echo many similar sentiments about the underlying common humanity that exists even during a war

It is good that there are always people who will stand up for their moral position against the tide of public opinion and government aims. My father and my uncle were among them when in 1916 they refused to be conscripted into the army. I’ll be remembering them today [May 15th], International Conscientious Objectors Day, at a ceremony in London for the conscientious objectors of the first world war.


Armenian president accuses Turkey of genocide denial

From AFP:

ArmeniaPhotograph: Karen Minasyan/AFP/Getty Images‘s president has accused Turkey of an “utter denial” in failing to recognise the mass killings of Armenians in the Ottoman empire during the first world war as genocide. On Wednesday the Turkish prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan,offered condolences over the massacres, calling them “our shared pain”. The US hailed the move as historic.

But in a statement on Thursday marking the 99th anniversary of the start of the killings and mass deportations, President Serzh Sarkisian made no acknowledgement of Erdogan’s statement and instead accused Turkey of continuing to ignore the facts.

“The Armenian genocide … is alive as far as the successor of the Ottoman Turkey continues its policy of utter denial,” he said. “The denial of a crime constitutes the direct continuation of that very crime. Only recognition and condemnation can prevent the repetition of such crimes in the future.”


Obama Whitewashes World War One

Matthew Rothschild writes for The Progressive:

President Obama just went to Flanders Field in Belgium to pay homage to those who lost their lives in World War I. But rather than use the occasion to point out the idiotic hideousness of that war, he whitewashed it, praising “the profound sacrifice they made so that we might stand here today.”

He saluted their “willingness to fight, and die, for the freedom that we enjoy as their heirs.” But this was not a war for freedom. It was a triumph of nationalism, pitting one nation’s vanity against another. It was a war between empires for the spoils.

Historian Allen Ruff, who is studying the causes and effects of World War I, was not impressed with Obama’s speech. “With Both NATO and the European Union headquartered in Brussels,” Ruff says, “it would have been a true homage to the dead buried in Belgium a hundred years ago if Obama spoke out against all major power imperial ambition, the true cause of so much slaughter then and since, rather than mouthing some trite euphemisms about the honor of dying for ‘freedom.’ ”

But Obama insisted on repeating the very propaganda that fed that war. Without irony, he quoted the poem from John McRae that was used to encourage soldiers to sign up and civilians to pay for war bonds.


John Glaser: The Myths Behind the Allied Bombing Campaigns of WWII

John Glaser writes for Antiwar:

Lancaster_I_NG128_Dropping_Blockbuster_-_Duisburg_-_Oct_14,_1944In the New York Times, Ben Macintyre reviews the new book by Richard Overy The Bombers and the Bombed. Macintyre gives a summary of Overy’s myth-busting about the Allied bombing of Germany. Indiscriminate bombing of civilians, instead of sticking to military targets, is usually defended as (1) a response to similarly indiscriminate bombing campaigns by the Germans, like in the Blitz, and (2) the only way to completely bring down the Nazi regime.

“Overy demonstrates, however, that the tactic of bombing urban areas had been put into action by the British before the Blitz,” Macintyre reports. And as for the second justification…


As others mark World War One centenary, Germans prefer to forget

Erik Kirschbaum writes for Reuters:

Stone crosses and gravestones are silhouetted against the sky at Invaliden cemetery in Berlin March 17, 2014. REUTERS-Tobias SchwarzThe centenary of the outbreak of World War One has caught Germany off guard, while Britain, France, the United States and others mark it with battlefield tours, television programs, exhibitions and plans for ceremonies on the day, in August. Germans aren’t sure how, or even if, they should commemorate a war that cost them 13 percent of their territory, all their colonies, huge reparations and 2.5 million lives. The government is under fire for its inactivity.

…The reasons for German apathy run deeper than the obvious fact that they lost the war. Modern Germany has no appetite for war and shudders at the memories of Imperial Germany, with its spiked “Pickelhaube” helmets and exuberant militarism. “Germans today are probably the least belligerent and most pacifist-oriented people anywhere in Europe,” said Herfried Muenkler, a Humboldt University historian whose new book “Der Grosse Krieg” is making waves for challenging long-held notions that Kaiser Wilhelm’s Germany was to blame for starting it.


An assassin divides his native Bosnia 100 years on

Matt Robinson and Daria Sito-Sucic write for Reuters:

…Gavrilo Princip stared down from the outer wall of a museum at the riverside spot in Sarajevo where on a summer’s morning in 1914 he opened fire on the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne. The killing of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife, Sophie, lit the fuse for World War One, turning out the lights on an age of European peace and progress. Empires crumbled and more than 10 million soldiers died. The world order was rewritten. Yet 100 years on, in Princip’s native Bosnia, time, in many ways, has stood still.

A hero to some, a harbinger of destruction to others, the assassin is being fought over anew as Sarajevo prepares to mark the June 28 centenary of his act. Two rival sets of events are being planned, and accusations of ‘revisionism’ are flying at a time of renewed Cold War-style tensions between East and West. The row goes to the heart of Bosnia today, a country still affected by big-power divisions and still arguing about the past, divided by the present and uncertain about the future.


Melting Glaciers Revealing Frozen Corpses of World War I Soldiers

From The Telegraph:

Pic: Museo della Grande Guerra, Peio (C)The bodies, when they came, were often mummified. The two soldiers interred last September were blond, blue-eyed Austrians aged 17 and 18 years old, who died on the Presena glacier and were buried by their comrades, top-to-toe, in a crevasse. Both had bulletholes in their skulls. One still had a spoon tucked into his puttees — common practice among soldiers who travelled from trench to trench and ate out of communal pots. When Franco Nicolis of the Archaeological Heritage Office in the provincial capital, Trento, saw them, he says, his first thought was for their mothers. ‘They feel contemporary. They come out of the ice just as they went in,’ he says. In all likelihood the soldiers’ mothers never discovered their sons’ fate. One of the oddities of the White War was that both the Alpini and the Kaiserschützen recruited local men who knew the mountains, which meant that they often knew each other too. Sometimes family loyalties were split. ‘There are many stories of people hearing the voice of a brother or a cousin in the thick of battle,’ Nicolis says.


Don’t Break up Syria: WW1-Style Imperial Divide & Rule is a Failure

Christopher Dekki writes for Informed Comment:

Since the beginning of this terrible conflict in Syria, I have been closely listening to people’s reactions to the violence and devastation occurring there. What is astonishing is how quickly Syria transformed from a place of relative obscurity to a topic of constant discussion among so many. Even more astonishing, the solutions often offered to stem the violence prove that westerners have simply learned nothing from the lessons of history. These “solutions” tend to follow the same, tired formulae of a colonial mindset that helped put the Levant in this mess in the first place.

Some of the most passionate calls for “humanitarian” intervention and instant, western-led regime change have come from people who, ironically, are still disillusioned by the disastrous Bush Administration lies that led the United States into the heinous Iraq invasion of 2003. Nevertheless, of all the “solutions” that I hear bandied about by those who truly believe they are in the know concerning these grave geopolitical issues, the most idiotic and truly outdated is balkanization, or as I like to call it in the context of Syria, Sykes-Picot II.


First world war: an imperial bloodbath that’s a warning, not a noble cause

And in case there were any doubt that all the main combatants were in the land-grabbing expansion game, Britain and France then divvied up the defeated empires.' Illustration: Matt KenyonSeumas Milne writes for The Guardian:

They were never going to be able to contain themselves. For all the promises of a dignified commemoration, the Tory right’s standard bearers held back for less than 48 hours into the new year before launching a full-throated defence of the “war to end all wars”. The killing fields of Gallipoli and the Somme had been drenched in blood for a “noble cause”, declared Michael Gove. The slaughter unleashed in 1914 had been a “just war” for freedom.

Hostility to the war, the education secretary complained, had been fostered by leftwingers and comedians who denigrated patriotism and painted the conflict as a “misbegotten shambles”. Gove was backed by the prime minister, as talk of international reconciliation was left to junior ministerial ranks.

Boris Johnson went further. The war was the fault of German expansionism and aggression, London’s mayor pronounced, and called for Labour’s shadow education secretary Tristram Hunt to be sacked forthwith if he doubted it. The Conservative grandees were backed up by a retinue of more-or-less loyal historians. Max Hastings reckoned it had been fought in defence of “international law” and small nations, while Antony Beevor took aim at “anti-militarists”.

This is all preposterous nonsense. Unlike the second world war, the bloodbath of 1914-18 was not a just war. It was a savage industrial slaughter perpetrated by a gang of predatory imperial powers, locked in a deadly struggle to capture and carve up territories, markets and resources.


Michael Gove blasts Blackadder for spreading ‘left wing myths’ on war

Blackadder Goes Forth spread an irresponsible left-wing agenda, claims Gove From

The education secretary Michael Gove today made an extraordinary attack on the classic comedy series Blackadder for peddling left-wing “myths” about the First World War “designed to belittle Britain and its leaders.”

Gove said the popular series had sought to denigrate British patriotism and had been used by “left wing academics” to portray the British war effort as a “shambles” led by an out-of-touch elite.

“Our understanding of the war has been overlaid by misunderstandings, and misrepresentations which reflect an, at best, ambiguous attitude to this country and, at worst, an unhappy compulsion on the part of some to denigrate virtues such as patriotism, honour and courage,” he writes in the Daily Mail.

“The conflict has, for many, been seen through the fictional prism of dramas such as Oh! What a Lovely War, The Monocled Mutineer and Blackadder, as a misbegotten shambles – a series of catastrophic mistakes perpetrated by an out-of-touch elite.

“Even to this day there are Left-wing academics all too happy to feed those myths.”


Uncomfortable parallels with 1914: The Economist calls for ‘a more active American foreign policy’ to make the world safer

From The Economist:

AS NEW YEAR approached a century ago, most people in the West looked forward to 1914 with optimism. The hundred years since the Battle of Waterloo had not been entirely free of disaster—there had been a horrific civil war in America, some regional scraps in Asia, the Franco-Prussian war and the occasional colonial calamity. But continental peace had prevailed. Globalisation and new technology—the telephone, the steamship, the train—had knitted the world together. John Maynard Keynes has a wonderful image of a Londoner of the time, “sipping his morning tea in bed” and ordering “the various products of the whole earth” to his door, much as he might today from Amazon—and regarding this state of affairs as “normal, certain and permanent, except in the direction of further improvement”. The Londoner might well have had by his bedside table a copy of Norman Angell’s “The Great Illusion”, which laid out the argument that Europe’s economies were so integrated that war was futile.

Yet within a year, the world was embroiled in a most horrific war. It cost 9m lives—and many times that number if you take in the various geopolitical tragedies it left in its wake, from the creation of Soviet Russia to the too-casual redrawing of Middle Eastern borders and the rise of Hitler. From being a friend of freedom, technology became an agent of brutality, slaughtering and enslaving people on a terrifying scale. Barriers shot up around the world, especially during the Great Depression of the 1930s. The globalisation that Keynes’s Londoner enjoyed only really began again in 1945—or, some would argue, in the 1990s, when eastern Europe was set free and Deng Xiaoping’s reforms began bearing fruit in China.

The driving force behind the catastrophe that befell the world a century ago was Germany, which was looking for an excuse for a war that would allow it to dominate Europe. Yet complacency was also to blame. Too many people, in London, Paris and elsewhere, believed that because Britain and Germany were each other’s biggest trading partners after America and there was therefore no economic logic behind the conflict, war would not happen. As Keynes put it, “The projects and politics of militarism and imperialism, of racial and cultural rivalries, of monopolies, restrictions and exclusion, which were to play the serpent to this paradise, were little more than the amusements of [the Londoner’s]…daily newspaper.”


Premier League to donate new football pitch at Ypres to commemorate ‘Christmas Truce’ match during First World War

From The Independent:

The Premier League is to donate a floodlit football pitch to mark the centenary of the Christmas Truce match which saw British and German troops play each other during the First World War.

English football’s top flight announced that it will build a state-of-the-art third- generation artificial pitch in the Belgian city of Ypres by November next year as part of the centenary commemorations of the Great War.

In one of the conflict’s most famous episodes, troops fighting on the Western front halted hostilities to play a game in no-man’s land and later posed for pictures and exchanged gifts on Christmas Day 1914.

A Christmas Truce tournament organised by the Premier League and bringing Under-12 teams from England, Belgium, France and Germany together in Ypres has already been in place since 2011 to remember the spontaneous outbreak of goodwill.


ITV news presenter hits back after abuse for not wearing poppy

PoppiesFrom The Guardian:

An ITV news presenter who has been subject to racist and sexist abuse for her decision not to wear a Remembrance Day poppy said she made her decision in order to be “neutral and impartial on-screen”.

Charlene White, a presenter on ITV News London, received insults on social media after she appeared on screen without the poppy, with many of the jibes focusing on her race.

In a statement on the ITV website, the journalist said she had made the decision not to wear a poppy a number of years ago but the backlash this year had been the worst so far.



How politicians use the poppy appeal to make today’s wars more popular

From Stop the War Coalition:

[...] The mixture of imperial aggression, hubris and wilful ignorance of the consequences that marked the invasions and occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq meant that both wars ended in failure for the Western powers. Wars were not meant to be unpopular, according to the politicians, but opinion polls showed that they were bitterly contested and as they developed only became more so.

As this has manifestly become the case, so there has been more emphasis on supporting the troops, as opposed to supporting wars. The boosting of the poppy appeal is part of that process. In that sense it appeals to most people’s decent sentiments, regardless of their politics. They do not want to see people dying in wars and they want to pay respects to the dead of previous wars.

That is all fair enough, but when the poppy is used to bolster the status quo and justify wars, then that is a different matter. The sufferings of those who died and were injured in previous wars should not be used to try to make present wars more popular.

This is particularly important because next year marks the 100th anniversary of beginning of the First World War, and there are already many signs that government and media plans under way will use the anniversary to recast that war as one for democracy, not as the senseless slaughter of young men fighting for different empires which it actually was.

That really would be a travesty of the truth. Maybe that’s why in recent days the Stop the War office has been inundated with requests for white poppies, commemorating peace. Many who ask for them say that they do not want remembrance to be confused with support for war. That really would be a disservice to those who have died.


Harry Patch: War is organised murder, and nothing else

Guardian Obituary: Harry Patch

Major General Smedley Butler: War Is A Racket

War Is A Racket speech delivered by Major General Smedley Butler in 1933:

“WAR is a racket. It always has been

It is possibly the oldest, easily the most profitable, surely the most vicious. It is the only one international in scope. It is the only one in which the profits are reckoned in dollars and the losses in lives.

A racket is best described, I believe, as something that is not what it seems to the majority of the people. Only a small “inside” group knows what it is about. It is conducted for the benefit of the very few, at the expense of the very many. Out of war a few people make huge fortunes.”


Parliamentary poppy wars showing dangerous signs of escalation

Poppy escalation showing dangerous signs

From News Thump:

The first shots of this year’s ‘poppy wars’ were fired this week as MPs battled it out between them over who supports the troops the most.

The dangerous levels of escalation were on show at Prime Ministers Questions where all MPs could be seen wearing a red poppy to show their support, while some wore two in the event of an attack on two fronts from both The Daily Mail and The Daily Express.


Major General Smedley Butler: War is a racket…

Refusing to go to war is finally being recognised as a brave act ~ Independent

indby Holly Williams
The Independent

‘The conscientious objector is a popular trope in any drama touching on the First World War: Downton Abbey, Upstairs Downstairs and more recently The Village have been awash with young men persecuted for their moral stance, the white feathers they were shamed with fluttering about TV screens as if war was a pillow fight.

As we approach the centenary of the First World War next year, we’ll no doubt hear a lot more about those that fought – and those that felt an equally powerful compulsion not to. But conscientious objection did not begin and end there: conflicts since, including the Second World War and the Vietnam war, have involved conscription, while countries as diverse as Finland, Israel, South Korea, Greece, Columbia and Turkey still require their young people to perform military service.

Getting an exemption on conscientious grounds is, even today, often an arduous process, potentially prompting the century-old accusations of cowardice. COs may face jail sentences or fines, despite a 2012 UN document stating that “conscientious objection … is based on the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, set out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights”.

International Conscientious Objection Day took place this week, on 15 May, and in the UK, a ceremony was held at the CO Commemorative Stone in Tavistock Square, Bloomsbury. Tomorrow, a small event will be held in the Peace Garden in Birmingham. The UK has also recently seen the opening of a new memorial to COs, at The National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire. Last month, the Quakers erected a new circular limestone structure there to commemorate, specifically, the Friends Ambulance Unit – a Quaker-run body open to all COs – and the Friends Relief Service, which aims to relieve civilian distress in Britain.’