In the 200 years preceding 1914, British armies had painted a quarter of the world red with blood. We were an Empire, the greatest in human history. A “democratic” Empire where less than 20% of the population could vote. The sun never set on Britain, and yet millions lived in darkness.
It wasn’t just an Empire of bullets and banks, either, but also of marriages. Empress Victoria had spread her (half-German) children, and their watery blood, all across the Royal houses of Europe. The German Kaiser was a cousin of our King who was a cousin of the Russian Tsar. They were all the same, from the beards on their faces to the blood on their hands. Mirror images of each other. Dueling Empires, throwing men into the furnace to fuel their conquests.
Britain was not fighting for values, merely playing the grand chessboard into a horrific stalemate. Every school child has been taught that for decades.
We know that British generals were as callous as they were incompetent as they were out of touch. That when General Melchett looks at the wrong side of a map or Field Marshall Haig sweeps toy soldiers into a dustpan, that we’re only just to the satire side of reality.
Field Marshall Haig, after all, was borderline mad man. He was nicknamed “the Butcher of the Somme”, by his own men. Even Winston Churchill – that gin soaked purveyor of slaughter – thought Haig was too cavalier with the lives of the men in his charge. Butcher Haig was a monster. We’ve been taught that all our lives.
Trench warfare was a hell on Earth. Conditions beyond human imagining punctuated by events of such brutality as to tip-toe the line between tragedy and farce. Events like the Battle of Loos, where 8000 British soldiers died in 4 hours, cut down by machine guns. The Germans didn’t lose a single man.
It was all such a bloody waste. Everyone knows that, has always known that. Nobody ever questioned it.