On the 18 January 1919 the Paris Peace Conference that ended the First World War began at Versailles. It resulted in five controversial treaties that rearranged the map of Europe and imposed onerous financial penalties on Germany and the other losing nations. These reparations gave rise to political resentments that lasted for decades.
But why did we go to war in the first place and why do mainstream historians continue to demonise the Kaiser and Prussian stoicism even to this day? Especially, when the myth of Huns raping nuns and bayoneting Belgian babies are now known to be the inventions of British propagandists. In fact, Imperial Grmany before World War I had sickness and old age pensions and trade union rights far superior to those sanctioned by the Parliament in Westminster and a 99% literacy rate that gave birth to writers like Thomas Mann and musicians such as Richard Strauss. This conundrum that gave me some cause for concern and led me to pen the following rather fanciful and imaginative thought piece which is based on facts:
In Britain, Lord Kitchener was everywhere, moustache twitching, finger pointing, beseeching men to join your Country’s Army! The day after war was declared a full page advert ran in Northcliffe’s newspapers.
The poster was emblazoned on omnibuses, trams and plastered over all the public buildings and trains. His dark eyes followed you everywhere. No one could escape. There were popular songs. Volunteers were enlisting in queues on street corners, outside cinemas and inside public houses from Liverpool to Accrington and East Grinstead to Hull.
In order to defend ‘Plucky Belgium!’ from the murderin’ and rapin’ Hun, for one shilling a day, regular food, clothing and hell to pay.
The poor of the mill and the port towns were fooled into joining the levée en masse. Chip-toothed and rickety, ring-wormed and shingled, brothers and cousins signed up for the Pals. They were also escaping the shame of being handed a white feather by girls living in back to back housing without toilets and drains. Thinking it would be over by Christmas and the Kaiser’s boys would run pell-mell when they faced the bayonets and bullets from Redbridge and Staines.
So the impoverished ‘grunts’ sailed they marched in step to the sound of the guns. Occasionally the ordinary soldiers were in the company of gifted ones like Wilfred Owen and Jones who rendered in words the confusion and slaughter that soon ensued. In the mud filled holes under shrapnel rain, with a ratta-tat-tat, heads ducked to avoid the sniper’s sharp aim. Epaulettes and batons driving the sheep over the top, running to seize the Kanone C73’s and only the lucky ones came limping back. Oh what a horror, Oh what a war, what did men so willingly throw their bodies into the meat grinder for?
While back in their homelands, women worked shifts in the arsenal for little pay and the banana boats were landing many hundreds a day.
Hands from Trinidad and Jamaica, it mattered little from where they came. They were bringing in cheap labour for the financiers of industry like Herbert Samuel and Baron von Hirsch. In Frankfurt the Warburgs and in New York, Bernard Baruch and the Schiffs were investing in death, while European blood drenched the earth. Source
‘Strike against war, for without you no battles can be fought! Strike against manufacturing shrapnel and gas bombs and all other tools of murder! Strike against preparedness that means death and misery to millions of human beings! Be not dumb, obedient slaves in an army of destruction! Be heroes in an army of construction!: Helen Keller. – Source: Told to an audience at Carnegie Hall one year before the United States entered World War I. From ‘Declarations of Independence’ by Howard Zinn page 75.
Here dead we lie because we did not choose, / To live, and shame the land from which we sprung. / Life, to be sure, is nothing much to lose, But young men think it is, and we were young’ – A. E. Housman, Here Dead We Lie.
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MICHAEL WALSH is a journalist, broadcaster and the author of RISE OF THE SUN WHEEL, EUROPE ARISE, TROTSKY’S WHITE NEGROES, MEGACAUST, DEATH OF A CITY, WITNESS TO HISTORY, THE BUSINESS BOOSTER , THE FIFTH COLUMN VOLUME I and II, FOR THOSE WHO CANNOT SPEAK, IMMORTAL BELOVED, THE ALL LIES INVASION, INSPIRE A NATION Volume I, INSPIRE A NATION Volume II , SLAUGHTER OF A DYNASTY , REICH AND WRONG, THE RED BRIGANDS, RANSACKING THE REICH , SCULPTURES OF THE THIRD RIECH: ARNO BREKER AND REICH SCULPTORS , SCULPTURES OF THE THIRD RIECH: JOSEF THORAK AND REICH SCULPTORS , The Exiled Duke Romanov Who Turned Desert Into Paradise , THE DOVETAILS , SEX FEST AT TIFFANY’S and other book titles. These illustrated best-selling books are essential for the libraries of informed readers.
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MICHAEL WALSH is an Irish British-born journalist. His 64 books include best-selling historical books THE ALL LIES INVASION, WITNESS TO HISTORY, TESTIGO DE LA HISTORIA: HISTORIA SIN CENSURA (SPANISH EDITION), REICH AND WRONG, HEROES HANG WHEN TRAITORS TRIUMPH , HEROES OF THE REICH, THE FUHRER’S PROCLAMATION TO THE GERMAN PEOPLE , FOR THOSE WHO CANNOT SPEAK, MEGACAUST, THE RED BRIGANDS, RANSACKING THE REICH, and DEATH OF A CITY.
MICHAEL WALSH is a journalist, author, and broadcaster. His 64 books include best-selling RHODESIA’S DEATH EUROPE’S FUNERAL, AFRICA’S KILLING FIELDS, THE LAST GLADIATORS, A Leopard in Liverpool, RISE OF THE SUN WHEEL, EUROPE ARISE, FOR THOSE WHO CANNOT SPEAK, THE ALL LIES INVASION, INSPIRE A NATION Volume I, INSPIRE A NATION Volume II, and many other book titles. These illustrated best-selling books are essential for the libraries of informed readers.
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