World Wars Remembrance
Richard M. Lamb Esq. gives his understanding of the valiant sacrifice of the British Great War Soldiers and how it gave true character to that conflict to end all Wars.
A hallowed tradition to remember these fallen which I particularly concentrated upon with the Rev. A.L. Burrell my father-in-law (Chaplain 8th Indian Division in Italy WWII). Arthur conducted the Remembrance Service with feeling and real sadness and reverence on the few occasions I was present and he was in charge of these occasions. The Anglican Church is the proper Church of wartime 20th Century Remembrance as the great majority of serving British soldiers in WWI and WWII were Church of England. Arthur knew this well and was not reluctant to come forward with his time honoured prayers of comfort to us survivors. Arthur truly led these prayers as (British) Chaplains would have done at the Front.
The significance of the wartime final sacrifice undaunted: This is the essence of wartime ordeal and outcome. The soldier’s life is not only on the line – it is taken from him in battle. Then there is no going back as he will have crossed the line to Eternal Life, as all soldiers killed in action do so achieve Eternity in Divine Happiness I believe by virtue of their self-sacrifice. To refuse to recognise this truth is to cast doubt upon God’s plan and ultimate compassion to his suffering people in the hour of their death. A soldier is no different to each one of us in life. The same of course applies to civilians who die in wartime conflicts e.g. the six million Jews exterminated in the Nazi Camps and the tens of thousands killed in bombing raids over Germany in WWII: They all attain salvation.
3. World War I – the Great War
Advisedly called the Great War as it was the greatest clash of infantry Armies – foot soldiers – and that is greater suffering than armoured columns and tanks and aerial battle. These men had to dig trenches in 1914 and mobile warfare was abandoned never to reappear until 1918 with the big German spring “Push” and the advance to the Hindenberg line by the British. These men were fighting inch by inch. The artillery bombardments were horrendous in noise, explosive effect, and death and injuries. The British machine guns mowed down whole infantry columns on 23rd August 1914 at Mons to halt the brave shoulder to shoulder German advance. Hand to hand fighting was common place in the 1914-18 War also in WWII. Not only the greatest conflict ever known in 1918 when it subsided but also Great because of the exceptional military heroism on the British side of the volunteer Armies in 1914-16 on the Somme.
That freely given military courage and sacrifice never to be seen again, defined the Western Front and thereby the whole Great War for France, Germany and Britain. The French call it the Grande Guerre – they have adopted the British appellation – Great. Our Dominions – Australia, South Africa, Canada and New Zealand also provided volunteer soldiers. There were few volunteers in World War II on the British side. A volunteer is far greater in spirit than a conscript and always has been. The conscript has no choice – the volunteer fights for the cause and thus his nobility is greater. The German and French Armies in the Great War were conscript Armies. The cause I speak of for the volunteer British Armies is greater than the Army and even the war – the volunteer dies for his Country – that is his cause. The honour of his Country is far greater than tactics and strategy – as Henry V shouted,
“Cry God for Harry, England and St George!”
to rouse his troops. The Great War was the last war fought on those lines and there will never be another war of that character. Belief in God and St George is thought quaint and has waned.
Military Service, still dangerous, is entered upon by those properly trained and chosen to perform a limited task – certainly not to throw caution to the wind and die in battle, as in 1916, where men died in droves on the Somme.
Afghanistan has cost Anglo/USA dead as has Iraq in the 1990-2014 period. The casualties were regular soldiers and the operations were strictly defined and these dead and injured were mourned without doubt. These were localised regional conflicts and could only be fought by professional foot soldiers and their technical aerial support. You will not find politicians and senior officers (British) eschewing the words of honour and sacrifice in respect of these Central Asian campaigns.
However, the essence lies in the spirit of the Country who were right behind the volunteer British Armies in 1914-16. The British people proper did not support Iraq and Afghanistan if we are to be honest. You cannot have a soldier fighting genuinely for his Country if his Country is not with him. It does not make sense.
The British volunteer Armies of 1915-16 not only believed in their cause, but the British people truly supported them by the war effort, the letter home, the press and their total adherence to the righteousness of this war (even though historians later have doubted the legitimacy and worth of the sacrifice and slaughter as it is described). There was no doubt in the mind of the British people. Summed up by the Minister of War Lord Kitchener,
“Your Country needs you!”
Yes it did and the Country was not found wanting. What is more, the soldiers sacrifice in WWI German, British and French was worth it to prove the gallantry of those Armies and War for the one and last time. WWII was a war based on genocide and thus gravely tarnished. The cause was there for Britain and the US but honours were not shared. Nazi Germany had no redeeming feature. Thus the war lacked virtue. I consider another World War very unlikely with the USA firmly in the driving seat. Thus, it is the Great War or no war and how Great they were those men. Men no longer are motivated by the old concept of honour. The troops of the Kaiser’s Germany, George V’s Britain and Third Republican France combined to fight the last war of chivalry on the Western Front begun 100 years ago this year.
Vive le champ d’honeur!