Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Government to remain neutral on cause of First World War

It has been reported that HM Government is keen that the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War next year must not become an 'anti-German festival'. To that end Culture Secretary Maria Millar said the Government would remain 'neutral' on the debate about precisely who and what started the Great War.

To be candid, and for the avoidance of doubt (in this context of new, more rigorous GCSEs), His Grace would like to make it clear that the conflict now known as the First World War began with Austria's attack on Serbia in July 1914 (..hence the centenary being next year..), following the assassination of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo. Russia came to the help of Serbia, and Germany to that of Austria. Germany then declared war on France, as Russia's ally, and we declared war on Germany when they invaded neutral Belgium and Luxembourg on their way to Paris.

We were at war were with Germany. Their aggression led directly to the slaughter of almost a million British soldiers and tens of thousands who came to our aid from the British Empire.

Quite what HM Government sees fit to remain 'neutral' about is a mystery.


Blogger Bob said...

“When a child hits a child, we call it aggression.
When a child hits an adult, we call it hostility.
When an adult hits an adult, we call it assault.
When an adult hits a child, we call it discipline.”

-Haim G. Ginott

11 June 2013 at 09:04  
Blogger Martin said...

Seems to me that you admit the cause and avoid it in the future or ignore the cause and it reoccurs.

11 June 2013 at 09:05  
Blogger Preacher said...

Good posting Doctor Cranmer. Cameron & his pals get more like Orwell's leaders in 1984 daily.
It's history, it happened, men died. Nothing neutral about the men & boys who made that sacrifice.
But then we wouldn't want to upset our mates in Brussels. I mean where would all our failed ex P.M's & pals go when they retire?.
History repeats itself because nobody listens, or in this case they ignore it because it's easier.
Grow up Cameron & co learn the lesson & get over it. You're big boys & girls now.

11 June 2013 at 09:24  
Blogger John Redlantern said...

I don't think a million British soldiers were killed. You may want to check your figures. We wouldn't want anyone to accuse you of hyperbole, after all.

11 June 2013 at 09:25  
Blogger richardhj said...

Preacher is absolutely correct.

Whilst Orwell was "wrong" to name his book 1984, by 2014 we will be a good deal of the way there, and by 2024 we will have made it.

11 June 2013 at 09:51  
Blogger JimS said...

I expect that if Germany had been a 'Muslim' country WW1 would 'never happened' in modern history lessons.

We are nearly there anyway with EU Year One starting in 1946.

11 June 2013 at 10:02  
Blogger IanCad said...

Good Lord Come Soon!!!

Unbelievable! No; on second thoughts, exactly what is to be expected from Cameron and his amateur hour ministers.

This is an opportunity for a history lesson but we won't get it.

The Fateful Alliance (The 1894 Franco/Russian Pact) and its vile offspring were at the root of this calamity.

George Washington had it right: Make no permanent military treaties with other nations.

The seeds of future conflict are directly related to the close union of nations; not only military but economic. Look at the massive amount of trade with Germany prior to WW!.

It didn't take long for The War of Northern Aggresion to break out after the Articles of Confederation were signed, and slumbering within the all-encompassing dictats of the EU wait the horrors of future conflict.

Switzerland has remained very peaceful with no alliances, thank you very much.

Let's just be friends and not get married.

11 June 2013 at 10:25  
Blogger John Redlantern said...

Surely the causes of the conflict are a matter of historical record? They are hardly a secret. I assume that the focus of these commemorations is to be reconciliation rather than finger pointing, and after a hundred years that sounds entirely appropriate to me.

11 June 2013 at 10:29  
Blogger EdwardH said...

His Grace is on the money. Almost 900,000 British military deaths and 100,000 civilian deaths equals 1 million British deaths. A further 230,000 deaths from the wider Empire. Add to this over 2 million casualties, from Britain and Empire. It is a travesty and a disgrace not to name this for what is was: unbridled German aggression. Followers of this blog would do well to read Barbara Tuchman's definitive "August 1914" (Pulitzer Prize 1963) on the events leading directly to the general mobilisation.

11 June 2013 at 10:34  
Blogger John Redlantern said...


hardly a point worth laboring but you can't reach one million British soldiers dead by adding in civilians, now can you?

11 June 2013 at 10:39  
Blogger Nick said...

I guess this is the influence of the euro-drones in the government, who are under pressure not to appear Germano-phobic. Quite right that we should not be jingoistic about our past conflicts, but truth is it happened, and it happened for the reasons YG has stated. Wipe out history and you cannot learn from your mistakes.

It is a further example of Camerons political correctness - the absurd notion you can pick up a turd by the clean end. Cameron has no sense nationhood or national identity. He allows the US to snoop on UK citizens and the EU to re-write our history. Does he have any integrity at all?

11 June 2013 at 10:46  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The war started because of the vile Hun and his villainous empire-building! Germany decided to invade Belgium and the British Empire had a treaty safeguarding Belgium neutrality. Therefore we had no choice but declare war- which also meant the Dominions, India and the other realms of the far flung Empire. So perhaps more than a million people died under the British flag?

The underlying reasons were of course Germany's attempted to rule Europe (history you see repeats itself now) with her aggressive posturing and building of a naval fleet to rival our own Royal Navy.

11 June 2013 at 10:46  
Blogger bluedog said...

Your Grace, your communicant is in shock, for once he agrees with HM Government. Of course, this agreement is inadvertent and not based on any europhiliac delusion. The motivation is founded on a simple thought, if we could ask them, what would they want, Our Glorious Dead?

Would they want a jingoistic rant about German frightfulness? Four years of ritual Hun bashing? An endless parade of propaganda posters showing Belgian babies on German bayonets? Almost certainly not. Perhaps a great sigh will repeatedly emerge from those beautifully maintained and Lutjens designed cemeteries as the centenaries are marked, 'We lie in Christian graves, we forgive, but we cannot forget'.

So why don't we do the same? As we all know, we fought the Germans again in 1939 and again we won. We should never forget the causes of either war, but after one hundred years, the victors can surely afford to forgive.

11 June 2013 at 10:53  
Blogger Corrigan said...

Well, Cranmer's analysis may be technically correct, but leaves open a few gaps.

First, the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand was approved by senior members of the Serbian government. The fact that these people also happened to be members of the ultra-nationalist Black Hand was neither here nor there. Secondly, the Germans would claim their actions in 1914 came under the heading of "pre-emptive strike", which, if this blog is to be consistant, is perfectly acceptable. At least when it's Israel which does it. Third, all the Germans who did this, right or wrong, are dead. Is Cranmer supporting the concept of racial guilt? In which case, does he hold the Jews responsible for the death of Christ?

11 June 2013 at 10:53  
Blogger Darter Noster said...

The First World War was a bid for Germany's "place in the sun" - i.e. the domination of Europe and slice of the colonial pie to which the relatively young German Empire had convinced itself it was entitled. It had been planned for years before it actually happened; the German military and government knew that their aims would only ultimately be achievable by force. When the Austrian quarrel with Serbia presented them with an opportunity to realise their plans, they took it - though the Kaiser lost his nerve, and backpedalled, but by then the German Army was heading into Luxemburg and across the Belgian border.

Britain could have stayed out of it, as we COULD have stayed out of the Second World War, but only at the cost of sacrificing Europe and ultimately ourselves to a hostile militarist regime. Why people persist in believing that a Europe dominated by the Kaiser's Germany would have been any more pleasant than one dominated by Hitler's is beyond me - one only has to look at the Herero genocide to see the sort of regime we were faced with. The testimony of those in Northern France and Belgium who suffered under German occupation during the First World War speaks volumes too.

Britain and France had decided long before 1914 that we would meet German aggression together - Britain had withdrawn the battleships of the Mediterranean fleet to home waters - the idea being that the French navy would protect our Mediterranean interests whilst we would deny the German navy passage through the North Sea to attack France in the event of war. We were in it up to our necks long before the war actually started.

The British government was not prepared to match its foreign policy committments with military spending; Britain's politicians refused to introduce conscription and create the mass army that they knew would be needed to fight the continental war which their foreign policy would sooner or later embroil us in. Thus whilst the British Expeditionary Force of 1914 was arguably the best trained and equipped fighting force this country has ever snt to war, it was miniscule (even the Belgian Army was larger than ours) and needed rapid and massive expansion. This created huge problems down the line, as industry struggled to mass produce war material, and particularly high explosive shells for the artillery - a huge proportion of those fired on the first day of the battle of the Somme were duds.

Fortunately that could not happen today, because our Government has learned its lesson and now maintains an armed forces which are fully funded, manned and equipped to meet any eventuality which their foregin policy might meet.

Oh, hang on...

11 June 2013 at 10:59  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh dear, the Prime Minister seems afraid that the British may display their customary restraint concerning the sensitivities of a defeated foe.

The sound of occupying jackboots may no longer be heard but lending Euro's to ones neighbours on terms that were bound to blow up their economies and eventually reduce them to vassal status looks suspiciously like empire building by stealth. So, yes Prime Minister, you can rely on us to remain as neutral to the Germans as we always were.

11 June 2013 at 11:14  
Blogger John Wrake said...

Should you wish a little insight behind the scenes, I recommend vol.3 of Professor Roehl's biography of the Kaiser (due out this Summer) and the houseparty at Maresfield Park at the end of July 1914.

For German activity in the Russian Revolution and the Indians working for the German High Command in Berlin, read "The British Raj vol.2 Decay" by Elisabeth Beckett. (Amazon).

John Wrake.

11 June 2013 at 11:36  
Blogger John Redlantern said...

John Wrake

Is that Maresfield Park in the village of Maresfield, near Uckfield in East Sussex?

Curious to know what went on there.

11 June 2013 at 11:42  
Blogger Rasher Bacon said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

11 June 2013 at 12:02  
Blogger Rasher Bacon said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

11 June 2013 at 12:03  
Blogger John Redlantern said...

Rasher. Perhaps it is petty, and perhaps my original point was. And perhaps His Grace thought it was fair enough, since he did alter what he had written. Either way I don't see anything in what you posted that contradicts my point, but please let's leave it there: I already said it wasn't a point worth labouring.

11 June 2013 at 12:08  
Blogger David Hussell said...

How does a man with clearly no sense of history, nationhood and patriotism come to lead the Conservative Party ? Truth is of passing interest to him. He really is an EU place man and drone. But then so are the other two !

11 June 2013 at 12:09  
Blogger carl jacobs said...

Lord Lavendon

The war started because of the vile Hun and his villainous empire-building!

Yes, how dare Germany intrude upon Britain's rightful domain of Empire building.

Darter Noster

The testimony of those in Northern France and Belgium who suffered under German occupation during the First World War speaks volumes too.

*Cough* Boer War *cough*

Britain fought WWI because it was not in the British interest to allow one country to dominate the European continent. The consequence was the destruction of the Old World, the advent of Totalitarianism, and a far worse war. It was a war fought to determine the relative position of major states. Germany sought to elevate itself at the expense of Britain. Britain objected.


11 June 2013 at 12:13  
Blogger John Redlantern said...

Carl's point is, if I may say so, a typically transatlantic one, but right on the money. Surely finger-pointing like this is what causes hatreds to linger. We've only just apologised for what we did to the Kenyans, for example, and not long ago there was mention of Amritsar on this very blog. No nation is as white as the driven snow. Except maybe Switzerland!

11 June 2013 at 12:19  
Blogger Brother Ivo said...

I think His Grace's position is not to stir anti-German sentiment but to defend intellectual Historical accuracy arising from proper rigorous study rather than PC pap.

Lord Lavenham rightly points out the treaty obligations to Belgium in the days when an Englishman's word was his bond.

Brother Ivo may soon be writing about such " old fashioned values" from a perspective Brother Carl might recognise.

11 June 2013 at 12:46  
Blogger Darter Noster said...


"Germany sought to elevate itself at the expense of Britain. Britain objected."

The United States figured out pretty quickly that Germany's elevation would not just be at Britain's expense; the USA spent most of the first decade of the 20th century trying to stop the Germans developing naval bases in the Caribbean and South America.

"*Cough* Boer War *cough*"

We never engaged in systematic genocide; the death rates from disease in the Boer concentration camps were comparable to those experienced by our own troops, who were victims of similar inadequate planning and terrible conditions. When they were uncovered, there was an outcry in Parliament and the nation as a whole.

I'm not seeking to excuse Britain or any other country's colonial past, but to maintain that Britain, France, USA (yes, you had colonies too, and you weren't always very nice to the people who lived in them) were no better than, or different to, the German regime of that period is a manifest distortion of the truth.

All the beliefs of racial superiority, militarism, Lebensraum, and the ruthless Darwinian extermination of weaker peoples which would later drive the Nazi genocide of Jews and Slavs were present in Imperial Germany before the First World War, if only in a less virulent state; the Nazis did not invent them.

Whatever faults the Allies had as colonial powers (and they were many) the Kaiser's regime had to be stopped for the good of humanity. That is not about finger-pointing, it's about truth.

11 June 2013 at 12:58  
Blogger Phil Roberts said...

Lovely story about the Boer War I read in a museum on a visit to SA

A large number of commando, some with their women and children were trapped between the British and the Drakensberg mountains which were covered in snow.

The men called a meeting and decided to surrender in the morning. Their excuse was the welfare of the women and children.

Soon after the women were seen throwing things into the fire and then marching off towards the mountains.

They had burned their shoes first to shame their men. The Boers escaped over the mountains.

There is the biggest difference between now and 100 years ago. What would men do now? Laugh at the gesture and say don't be so ridiculous?


11 June 2013 at 13:28  
Blogger Edward Spalton said...

My great uncle, after whom I was named, joined up.
He was a self-taught, multi lingual European sales agent.
He knew Spanish, French and German and was learning Russian in 1914.

He had a great affection for his time in "good old Germany" but was in absolutely no doubt of the aggressive intent and spirit which was abroad in the country and "who started it".
It was one of his nightmares that he might meet one of his German friends in battle.

He went on to a successful post war business career, becoming a director of the Blakey Boot Protector Company - the people who made "segs", the hobnails for boots (including army boots).

11 June 2013 at 13:33  
Blogger Roger Pearse said...

Her Maj has the unfortunate situation that her ministers behave like agents of a foreign power. It has happened before - Charles II's ministers were bribed by France - but not in modern times.

Still, those who demanded a state based on "if it feels good, do it", can hardly complain if those in power follow that dictum themselves, and the hell with everyone else.

11 June 2013 at 13:48  
Blogger Corrigan said...

Conspicuous by its absence from this thread so far has been the chief ally of Great Britain (proportion of manhood sufferage in 1914, 55%) in its struggle agaisnt the Kaiser's Germany (proportion of manhood sufferage in 1914, 100%). "But we've mentioned France", I hear Cranmer say indignantly. Actually I was talking about Tsarist Russia (proportion of manhood sufferage in 1914, 0%)

11 June 2013 at 14:00  
Blogger Ivan said...

The greatest tragedy of the First World War was that having contained the Hun at the expense of so much blood and treasure, the Allies then allowed the German Army to leave the field alive. Generals Foch, Haig and Pershing had finally readied a great Visitation to defenestrate the German Army, Ludendorff was in panic and daily sending telegrams to Berlin begging for an armistice. Then when the Germans went home, they put all the blame on the Jews. The Huns introduced gas warfare, their earlier attempt at African colonisation was hideous as Darter Noster points out. The Kaiser let it be known that he was not averse to be known as Hajj Wilhelm, roiling the Muslims, burning the feet under the French and British from India to the Sahara. But as the great man, Sir Winston Churchill wrote that was not the worst of it : "...Germans took a sombre decision. Ludendorff refers to it with bated breath. Full allowance must be made for the desperate stakes to which the German war leaders were already committed. They were in the mood which had opened unlimited submarine warfare with the certainty of bringing the United States into the war against them. Upon the Western front they had from the beginning used the most terrible means of offense at their disposal. They had employed poison gas on the largest scale and had invented the ‘Flammenwerfer.’ Nevertheless it was with a sense of awe that they turned upon Russia the most grisly of all weapons. They transported Lenin in a sealed truck like a plague bacillus from Switzerland into Russia.

The Red Army returned the favour in WW11 by destroying the entire Junker class.

11 June 2013 at 14:02  
Blogger Dreadnaught said...

Perhaps someone in the Conservative Party has been reading a bit of Churchill.

"If we open a quarrel between the past and the present we shall find that we have lost the future."

11 June 2013 at 14:07  
Blogger richardhj said...

David H (12.09)

At the time of the Leadership Election, I was a member of the Conservative Party.

You may remember that Cameron made a "wonderful" no notes speech. It made great television. The media (not least the BBC) were drooling all over him. The majority of members of the party (including many local councillors) wanted power and really believed that this guy could get it for them.

Who cares about his views? Who cares what he will do when he gets it?

They didn't listen to what he said. They just listened to how he said it. Of course for the "liberal" media, Cameron was a wonderful opportunity to ensure that their worldview would prevail no matter who won the next election.

It worked!

11 June 2013 at 14:16  
Blogger Steropes said...

For German activity in the Russian Revolution and the Indians working for the German High Command in Berlin, read "The British Raj vol.2 Decay" by Elisabeth Beckett. (Amazon).
Well said --
John Wrake. --- I've just bought it. Most interesting her writings on Gandhi (and the film) and Amritsar. Reading some of the comments it seems that many of the critics of Britain at those times seem unable to look at situations as they were in the first half of the 20th century and not from a 21st century PC perspective.

11 June 2013 at 15:04  
Blogger David Hussell said...

Thank you for that very honest and credible explanation, plainly answering my question, how did Cameron become leader. Knowing how politicians work I could believe it.
I too have been, although many moons ago, a member of the Conservative Party, although I do recall that a very attractive young lady had a distinct influence on me at the time. But youth passes.
But I continued voting for the blues, until Cameron made it very obvious that this party was not conservative, not at all, oh no, not al all. And now I am a Ukip member, activist and from time to time, candidate, not because I crave power, which I have no interest in, but in order to help wrest my country free from tyranny, decline, the destruction of our military, Human Rights EU style, never ending population replacement and the whole litany of problems we suffer. We are a broad church, a bit like the C of E.

11 June 2013 at 15:06  
Blogger Anglican said...

The root cause of this problem is that very, very few of our politicians know any history. They think it is irrelevant. This was obvious with Blair, but one would assume (wrongly as it turns out) that conservatives, of any party, would recognise its vital importance.

Churchill knew from the start, when Hitler came to power, what the future would probably be. He knew his history, and was writing his biography of Marlborough, which enabled him to make comparisons between then and now. Though even he probably did not realise the depths to which Nazi depravity would sink.

11 June 2013 at 15:29  
Blogger Albert said...

I haven't read much about all this yet (and far be it from me to defend Maria Miller), but isn't HMG's point simply to say that we should be remembering the war dead, rather than getting into an argument about whose fault it was? Aren't we far enough away from the events to be able simply to mourn the tragedy of it?

For the record: I think that, as with all wars, this one had multiple background causes, serious mistakes on all side and a tragic context which caused the war to spread. Nevertheless, no one seriously believes that Germany actually started it, do they? Just ask the Belgians! We don't need to go pointing the finger at Jerry. It's obvious. Let us remember with regret. What's the point of blaming Harry Hun now, or condemning Kaiser Bill?

11 June 2013 at 15:53  
Blogger Albert said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

11 June 2013 at 15:53  
Blogger Albert said...

Sorry, I should have said "No one seriously doubts that Germany started it"

11 June 2013 at 15:54  
Blogger Bob said...

Dreadnaught's comment at 14:07 is the wisest comment thus far.



11 June 2013 at 15:55  
Blogger John Redlantern said...

Albert you were right the first time : Germany didn't start it.

11 June 2013 at 15:58  
Blogger David Hussell said...

Agreed !

But when you have no knowledge of history, and therefore no "feel" for developing situations, which may have some parallels with previous ones, yes, you put your own future in danger.

11 June 2013 at 16:01  
Blogger Who Stole the Coal? said...

Actually, mysteries concerning Cameron's approach to this matter may be substantially dispelled by looking North rather than South:

"The (Scottish) referendum date of September 18th 2014 comes only weeks after the (WW1) centenary events are due to kick off...According to the Sunday Times, the principle ceremony in the UK is set to be held in Glasgow the day after the closing ceremony of the Glasgow Commonwealth Games." (Olympic style 'Cultural Element' to be at centre of UK Government's Great War commemorations, Newsnet Scotland)

11 June 2013 at 16:20  
Blogger Darter Noster said...

John Redlantern:

"Albert you were right the first time : Germany didn't start it."

Who did then John? Britain and France had nothing to gain from a massive, expensive and destructive European conflict, and Russia even less so.

The Kaiser himself was uncertain, but there were elements in the German military and government determined to use the trouble in the Balkans to put into practice the plans for aggressive war they'd been working on for years. Chancellor von Bethmann-Hollweg sabotaged a British attempt to mediate between Austria and Serbia, to make sure the opportunity wasn't missed.

Whatever your reasons for wishing to believe that the First World War was some sort of mutual decision by equally evil imperialists, it quite clearly was not.

11 June 2013 at 16:23  
Blogger Albert said...


How so?

11 June 2013 at 16:24  
Blogger Albert said...


Yes, how dare Germany intrude upon Britain's rightful domain of Empire building.

Last time I checked, neither Belgium, France nor Russia were either part of the British Empire in 1914, or part of our plans for expansion in 1914.

11 June 2013 at 16:25  
Blogger Albert said...


Whatever your reasons for wishing to believe that the First World War was some sort of mutual decision by equally evil imperialists, it quite clearly was not.

It's pretty clear that lots of British people were very pleased with the declaration of war in 1914. However, Earl Grey, the Foreign Secretary, was not. After the declaration of war, he banged his fist on the table and said "I hate war hate it, hate it, hate it."

11 June 2013 at 16:31  
Blogger John Redlantern said...

Austria - Hungary started it, I always thought. although I suppose you could argue it was Serbia.

11 June 2013 at 16:56  
Blogger Albert said...


Why did Austria dare take on Serbia, when she knew that to do so meant taking on Russia and possibly France as well?

11 June 2013 at 17:13  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...

Chaps, let’s not confuse the announcement of the solemn commemoration of a terrible year as celebratory. If there is anything to be celebrated, it is the UK’s nuclear capability which we all know has put an end to past madness’s, not that the lefties and the Bobs of this world would ever admit to that.

The Germans are now not only our friends, but they will be vital in the struggles of decades to come to keep Europe Christian. They will be right out in front, and they will triumph because they are Germans. We will triumph too eventually because there are Germans, and the next time, we will not stand in their way. Let us not forget that.

11 June 2013 at 17:17  
Blogger John Redlantern said...


I suppose the question "who started the war" could be asked on different levels. If it's taken as "who fired the first shots" then I'm sure you'll agree it was Austria.

11 June 2013 at 17:18  
Blogger Albert said...


I think that's a pretty superficial way of looking at it. But that account you would say that Britain and not Germany was at fault for the conflicts of 1914 & 1939 between the two countries owing to the fact that both times, Britain declared war.

Actually, I might say on the basis of first shots it was Princip - a position that shows the need for a more thorough account. Or maybe we need to blame the Archduke's driver for taking a wrong turn, or Princip's baker for not taking more time to prepare his lunch, so he wasn't out on that corner at just that moment.

11 June 2013 at 17:24  
Blogger John Redlantern said...


The conclusion in your first paragraph is a non sequitur.

Your second para seems to suggest that a simplistic answer such as "Austria (or Germany) did it is superficial. I agree.

11 June 2013 at 17:37  
Blogger Albert said...

Well obviously, it's a non-sequitur. I am simply sending up the absurdity of getting into smaller and smaller levels of causation. Why does a small Balkan war break about and become global? Firstly, because Austria has the guts to fight because Germany will back her up and secondly because as soon as Germany declares war, she fights in two directions, bringing everyone in.

Sorry, I'm out of time for now.

11 June 2013 at 17:46  
Blogger Anglican said...

Albert, 17:24

If you read "The Reminiscences of the Hon. Galahad Threepwood", (epilogue, page 260, ed. N.T.P. Murphy) you will see who really caused the First World War.

11 June 2013 at 17:51  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...

You all need to go back to 1904 and the ruinously expensive Dreadnaught race to find the origin of the Great War. There was to be no expansion of Germany without a navy at least equal to the UK Home Fleet...

11 June 2013 at 18:00  
Blogger carl jacobs said...


I don't doubt that Germany was looking for an opportunity to advance its Imperial ambitions. If Nicholas II hadn't decided to defend Serbia, I am sure that Germany would have found some other avenue to achieve its objective. Germany was principally responsible for the War. But there are two things that should be admitted:

1. No nation on Earth has less standing than the UK to critize the Imperial ambitions of another nation.

2. The UK didn't fight WWI to defend Belgian freedom from German depravity.

Britain fought the war because it was in the British interest to keep continental Europe divided and therefore subject to balance of power diplomacy. A Continental Europe under German domination would have been a mortal threat to Britain's position in the world. Britain feared that Germany could win a two-front war against Russia and France. In fact, I think that outcome would have been realized without British intervention. So Britain was wise to fight.

WWI was not a noble campaign of civilization against the Huns. It wasn't a war to end all wars. It was a fight between an old established Empire and a new emerging Empire for European predominance. Nothing more complicated then that. Whether the US should have involved itself in that war is an interesting historical counterfactual. For good or ill we threw ourselves behind Anglo-Saxon civilization. Was it worth the consequence of Lenin and Stalin and Hitler and WWII and the revolutionary restructuring of Europe and everything else that followed? We will never know. Who knows the opportunities and costs of the road not traveled?


11 June 2013 at 18:17  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...

Carl, the simple truth is that treaties were involved, and the Germans were bold enough to ignore their existence. That’s it, there’s nothing else...

11 June 2013 at 18:32  
Blogger John Redlantern said...


What I meant was, a "who fired the first shots" argument is not, as you suggested, equivalent to a "who declared war on whom" argument.

"I am simply sending up the absurdity of getting into smaller and smaller levels of causation".

Can we settle on "Austria started it" then?

I don't recall ever questioning or even raising the issue of how the war became global. You seem to be arguing with yourself.

11 June 2013 at 18:35  
Blogger LEN said...

George Santayana d.1952 said" Those who cannot remember the past, are condemned to repeat it."

11 June 2013 at 18:56  
Blogger John Redlantern said...

"George Santayana d.1952 said" Those who cannot remember the past, are condemned to repeat it.""

I wondered who'd be the first.

11 June 2013 at 19:00  
Blogger S Mooney said...

Someone is having a go at "who started the war".

This website gives a detailed timeline from 29 June to the 4 August, covering over 450 meetings, decisions, and actions, by the political and military leaders of Austria-Hungary, Germany, Russia, France, Britain, and Serbia.


Well worth a look. I blame the .....

11 June 2013 at 19:10  
Blogger S Mooney said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

11 June 2013 at 19:10  
Blogger Darter Noster said...


It was certainly not in Britain's strategic or economic interests to allow Germany to dominate Europe, but given the amount of ethnic cleansing (by movement of population, rather than out-and-out genocide, but it would hardly have been a bloodless affair) and redrawing of borders that we know from documentary evidence the Germans were planning, it wouldn't exactly have been a barrel of laughs for the rest of Europe either.

Let us not forget that little incidents such as the torching of the mediaeval city of Louvain (Leuven to the Flemish), or the Dinant and Tamines Massacres of August 1914, did an awful lot to persuade Americans that Germany should be stopped, and not just Brits like my great-grandfathers. German brutality in Belgium is well documented and attested; the Germans' treatment of Belgium did an awful lot to make up the minds of many people on both sides of the Atlantic.

It would have made an awful lot more sense for Britain, who despite the arms race shared closer ties of culture and kinship with Germany than any other nation apart from Austria, to have joined Germany in carving up Europe, but it is to our credit that we did not.

11 June 2013 at 19:19  
Blogger Phil Roberts said...

The main consequence of WW1 was the rise in Atheism fueled by Church support for the conflict.

The men found that the horrors of war were real and that the the Churches naf Theology about fighting for Glory and that we were right with God etc, were seen first hand to be the nonsense they were.

After the war the Church especially the CofE started its decline. False and weak teaching that ran counter to / or did not address the men's experience of Evil exacerbated the problem.

We won but at the expense of the Church. The men did not go and so their kids did not either within a Generation it was a shadow of its former self.


PS we see a similar tragedy about to happen with our Church's wrong headed support for Gay relationships, abortion etc.

11 June 2013 at 19:40  
Blogger Albert said...


Strangely enough, I actually started posting by saying we shouldn't get into a discussion about who started it. Nevertheless, I think Carl has responded to the key point you are making.

11 June 2013 at 20:31  
Blogger David Hussell said...

Phil Roberts,
You are right to remind us of the foolishness of the established Church in falling for the jingoism of WW1. They should have been neutral or at least maintained a very low profile. My grandfather was one of 10,000 Officers and Men who marched out of Brecon Barracks and he and 199 others marched back in. Twice he survived gas attacks by pissing into his own handkerchief. He took bullets, shrapnel and fought with his bayonet, when he exhausted his ammunition. He hardly spoke about it. But after the war he walked about until he was 92 with lumps of shrapnel too close to his spine to risk their removal. He was incredibly lucky to survive , retain all his limbs and his mind, but not his faith. Before the war he was an intermittent church goer but accepted the faith as his. After witnessing the horrors of WW1 and aware of the nonsense of the church supporting it, he would drive his wife to church, sit outside in his Austin 7, and then drive her home again. But apart apart from getting married in the church he never set a foot in it after surviving the front. He was not an intellectual, by a long way, but if he had received more formal education, then he would have declared atheism I'm sure, which is what he was effectively.
Yes, and any surrender to other strong forces could create a similar result again. Politicians are not the only ones to ignore history.

11 June 2013 at 20:32  
Blogger Albert said...


1. No nation on Earth has less standing than the UK to critize the Imperial ambitions of another nation.

I'm not saying denying that. The British Empire was the largest empire the world has ever seen! Of course, without European Imperialism, where would the US be? But I don't see what difference this makes.

2. The UK didn't fight WWI to defend Belgian freedom from German depravity.

I'm really not so sure about that. Certainly, I can see how Britain benefits from defending France, but I can also see - as DN has pointed out - how Britain might have done well to keep out of it. After each war, Britain's position was weaker in every respect.

After all, France had already been defeated once in living memory, and hadn't been brought into some kind of wider Germanic Empire (unless you live in Alsace of course).

Having said all that, part of the tragedy of WWI is that there was all that blood and suffering, and the cause was not as noble as that of 1939.

11 June 2013 at 20:37  
Blogger Darter Noster said...

Actually, just to correct an earlier inaccuracy I made - the French did have something to gain from a war with Germany, to whit Alsace, Lorraine and self-esteem.

That doesn't, however, alter the fact that Germany saw in the Balkan crisis the opportunity to launch a long-planned bid for the domination of Europe, and it took it.

We could argue round in circles forever about post-colonial guilt, but the First World War was primarily fought for the freedom of Europe from a German hegemony which would have been anything but benign and enlightened.

The American government considered German expansionism a threat to its interests long before the war broke out. Do American readers of this blog really think it would have been congenial to the USA for Germany to have domination of Europe and its combined colonial possessions? The German plan for the post-war world did not have room for two super-powers.

It's a great shame that so many people have bought into the "We were all as bad as each other" narrative, because it isn't true. The First World War was fought for a noble cause, even if it's not as clear cut as it was in the Second.

11 June 2013 at 20:53  
Blogger Roy said...

It is right that the emphasis should be on conciliation but that does not mean that we should forget about the causes of the war or the reasons why we went to war, and nor does it mean that we should not honour the achievements of our soldiers.

There are no British WW1 soldiers left now but when former British and German soldiers who fought in World War 2 meet they usually get on very well and there is a lot of respect between them.

People like Cameron fail to understand the mutual respect that exists between soldiers who fought on opposite sides. If they did understand it they would not think that a selective, collective amnesia was necessary for good relations with Germany.

11 June 2013 at 21:14  
Blogger Albert said...

That the fault lies with Germany is surely evident from the fact that they only had one plan for war - the Schleiffen Plan, and that it involved knocking out France quickly (even at the expense of Belgium) so as still to be able defeat Russia. It was that ambition that was able to convert a spark in the Balkans to a general European war within a matter of days (i.e. of Austria deciding to finish Serbia). Everything pointed in this direction - from the size and scale or her armies down to (according to AJP Taylor) the railway timetables.

In contrast, Britain was hopelessly unprepared for the European land war that German's actions resulted in. This is evident from the tiny BEF we sent in and the fact that it took years before Britain created an army large enough to take on Germany (and even then, it was really office workers and grocers in uniform).

11 June 2013 at 21:21  
Blogger Richard Watterson said...

Albert the straw grasper.

11 June 2013 at 21:24  
Blogger Albert said...

Was that an argument or evidence Richard?

11 June 2013 at 21:25  
Blogger Richard Watterson said...

Simply an observation.

11 June 2013 at 21:30  
Blogger david kavanagh said...


'France had already been defeated once in living memory, and hadn't been brought into some kind of wider Germanic Empire (unless you live in Alsace of course).'

As an addition to that I'd add that in 1871, Chancellor Bismark did not want to antagonize- as he didn't want to with the Brits, so at that time the Prussians studiously avoided invading the low countries- or indeed the defeated French any further and I think it was the Kaiser who got his way in annexing Alsace-Lorraine from France as well as making the French pay a huge war reparations bill.

Bismark then spent the rest of his career trying to isolate France with numerous treaties with all of the European powers and encouraged Anglo-French colonial disputes.

With the fall of Bismark, you then had a new Kaiser- William II, who had contradictions towards the British- his mother was British, but he didn't like her and his grand mother was Queen Victoria. His father Frederick died of throat cancer, but I think blamed his British doctor for an initial misdiagnosis.

But any way The Kaiser's inept diplomacy in Europe, tearing up treaties with Russia, antagonisisng the British in the boer war, then the decision to build a German battle fleet, to impress or challenge the British (depending on your POV), all brought within 15 years, France and Britain to reconciliation, an Anglo-Japanese alliance, Russia onto the Anglo-French side...with only Austria-Hungary as Berlin's main ally.

Hence when one of the European powers got into a near war situation, the logic of alliances and Germany's disregard for the British involvement-I think Moltke was so arrogant as to allow the BEF to slip across the channel, because of the small size of Britain's small army)- led to war.

11 June 2013 at 21:58  
Blogger david kavanagh said...

Incidentally, the comment about the BEF being small is true, but it did have an impact on the fighting in 1914- wasn't it the battle of mons or the marne (can't remember which), where the BEF helped to turn the German advance?

I did read a factoid once that said the Germans thought the British had more machine guns than they actually did, because of the ability of the BEF soldiers to shoot, shoot and shoot?

11 June 2013 at 22:02  
Blogger david kavanagh said...


I would say that you are looking at the long term consequences of the war in respect of the Anglo-German relationship....

but the immediate reason for Britain declaring war was the invasion of Belgium.

It did provide the right Casus belli for the government to argue for intervention, in the same way the U-Boats and the Zinnerman telegram helped American entry into the war later - that and the billions begin made in loans, war material and food by US companies.

11 June 2013 at 22:12  
Blogger Richard Watterson said...


Mons and Le Cateau were "fighting retreats", it was indeed the Marne.

Also not forgetting First Ypres, where the BEF fought the Germans to a standstill but was practically destroyed in the process.

11 June 2013 at 22:21  
Blogger Darter Noster said...


The 1914 BEF's training and professionalism made itself felt several times before it was effectively wiped out as a fighting force.

The Battle of Mons, at which the BEF found itself facing the German right wing (and thus its strongest formation, the outside edge of Schlieffen's plan), the First Army of General von Kluck, was the first meeting between British and German forces, and the fighting effectiveness of the BEF's highly skilled regulars came as a hell of a shock to the Germans, who suffered very large casualties from rifle fire as they attacked in massed formations.

A similar incident occurred at the First Battle of Ypres, and this one particularly stuck in the German psyche - the BEF was attacked by a division composed largely of young conscripts, who got mown down in an incident known to the Germans as the Kindermort von Ypern

11 June 2013 at 22:24  
Blogger Phil Roberts said...

David Hussel

My Gradfather used to treat soldiers and miners with vaious baths and treaments in Llanwrtyd Wells in the 1930s before the NHS.

My father as a young boy said he used to ask them about the war.

He said they would often just stare infront of them and say nothing, often like they were in a trance.

In 1940 his two cousins were talking excitedly about the war and how we were surely thrashing the Germans in France. He said his Uncle just stared in front of him and said nothing.

Later both boys were killed at Tobruk. I remember seeing their memorials in their local church, the youngest was just 19.

The Bible can give comfort and provide answers. CS Lewis writes realistically about the moral dilemma of war.

The Church in my view failed vast numbers of people this century. With the Aniversary of WW1 fast apporaching it would be good to own up to it.

Perhaps then we can start to turn a corner.


11 June 2013 at 22:37  
Blogger Phil Roberts said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

11 June 2013 at 22:46  
Blogger Phil Roberts said...


"Whether the US should have involved itself in that war is an interesting historical counterfactual. For good or ill we threw ourselves behind Anglo-Saxon civilization. "

Yes but why? What was in it for the US? What was the deal? Dismantling of empires?

100000 men is a lot of men to die for a nice gesture of support.

As you say, I don't buy it.


11 June 2013 at 22:47  
Blogger Darter Noster said...


For one thing, despite a substantial portion of American public opinion being hostile to Britain (particularly German and Irish Americans) Britain and America had been growing politically closer for twenty years before the First World War broke out, in a period known as the Great Rapprochement.

Britain, unlike Germany which was trying to acquire naval bases and political influence in countries such as Haiti and Venezuela, respected the Monroe doctrine. Britain also was one of few European countries to give the USA diplomatic support during the Spanish-American War; in a famous incident sailors on a British navy ship cheered and saluted the American fleet heading for Cuba.

During the war, whilst the Royal Navy stopped American ships heading for Germany, we paid for the cargoes, unlike the Germans who had a tendency to sink American ships.

German actions in Belgium did little to endear them to American public opinion, and many Americans fought with the British and French forces long before America actually entered the war - the Lafayette Escadrille in the French air force being the most famous example.

German intelligence carried out acts of sabotage on American soil, which hardly endeared them to the American government, and neither did incidents such as the sinking of the Lusitania, in which over 100 American civillians lost their lives.

The American government supported Britain and France from the outset by extending huge war credits, some of which were not paid off until very recently. American naval dockyards even built submarines for the Royal Navy, which were transported via Canada to get around the neutrality laws.

The American government of 1914 knew that supporting Britain and France was in its own interests from the outset, but if you want a more mercenary explanation you could take the fact that if German won and Britain and France went bankrupt there would be precious little chance of all those war loans being recovered.

Finally, there was the Zimmerman telegram, in which the German foreign minister promised to support Mexico if it invaded the United States and took back what it had lost in the Mexican-American war. That offer was not faked by British intelligence; the Germans publicly acknowledged that it was genuine.

Does that help?

11 June 2013 at 23:24  
Blogger Berserker said...

Surely it all goes back to Napoleon and his conscription of a quarter of a million Germans into the French army. This caused massive hatred of the French.
Then in 1870 France (Napoleon 3) declared war on Germany (cleverly engineered by the Prussians) and the Prussian cut through the French and arrived in Paris in record time. The world condemned the Germans although they had behaved well.
Bismarck, an opportunist, engineered the future and three wars.

France after 1815 was finished and not really a major power to contend with or be feared.
The French after

12 June 2013 at 00:49  
Blogger carl jacobs said...

It is my understanding that the Bryce Report on German Atrocities in Belgium was largely a pack of lies concocted by the British to serve their war effort. The Germans may have done some bad stuff in Belgium but nothing like the accusations made against them during the war. It was a propaganda effort intended to turn neutral opinion towards the UK. The actual case is somewhat more complicated by non-uniformed 'home guards' who were not covered by the rules of war in 1914. But that hardly stirs the blood like mass rapes and bayoneted babies.

And I know that the Lusitania was carrying war contraband. It was therefore a valid target of war, and the U Boat that sunk that ship committed no crime. Every civilian death must be laid at the feet of the British gov't the deliberately chose to use the protected status of that ship for its war effort. Now, it may have been colossally stupid of the Germans to sink that ship. A classic example of tactical success being turned into a strategic disaster. But the British Gov't was responsible for what happened. That's why it was such a closely guarded British secret.

One must ask however. What of the post-war blockade of Germany? How does that rank against what the Germans did in Belgium?


On a personal note. My mother is of German heritage. She was not born until after the war so she has no memory of it. But I asked her one day "How was your family treated during the war?" She looked at me with surprise, and started to cry. Just from the stories she had been told. If you knew my mother, you would understand just how shocking that was to me.

I suppose Lord Bryce didn't care about the impact of his lies on a German American farm family in the middle of the United States. People were dying. He had a war to win and an empire to maintain. Nevertheless. I care. And I noticed.

12 June 2013 at 04:14  
Blogger Brother Ivo said...

Brother David

The German advance in 1914 was brought slowly to a grinding halt incrementally at both Mons and the Marne but ultimately at 1st Yores ( a close run thing) when the Germans were prevented from reaching the Chanel Ports before winter set in which would have represented the objective of the Schlieffen Plan to outflank France and force its early surrender.

The British were badly weakened by the effort and whilst it is fashionable to denigrate the French, they carried the greater burden of fighting until Kitcheners volunteer army was trained and ready to attack on the Somme in 1916

12 June 2013 at 05:33  
Blogger Brother Ivo said...

Brother David

The German advance in 1914 was brought slowly to a grinding halt incrementally at both Mons and the Marne but ultimately at 1st Yores ( a close run thing) when the Germans were prevented from reaching the Chanel Ports before winter set in which would have represented the objective of the Schlieffen Plan to outflank France and force its early surrender.

The British were badly weakened by the effort and whilst it is fashionable to denigrate the French, they carried the greater burden of fighting until Kitcheners volunteer army was trained and ready to attack on the Somme in 1916

12 June 2013 at 05:33  
Blogger IanCad said...

Absent in this discussion as to the causes of the war is the sheer enthusiasm of the masses.

Home for Christmas and all that.

12 June 2013 at 07:17  
Blogger bluedog said...

Phil @ 22.46 and earlier, your point about the role of the CofE as a recruiting sargent in WW1 is entirely accurate. Losses in the White Dominions were particular severe, and the Anglican church never recovered from the grief of congregations mourning the sons who had volunteered to save the mother country.

Regarding your other points:

The United States involvement in both 20th Century European wars was driven by self-interest.

In WW1 the US was still a relatively insecure and naïve power that both economically and socially remained heavily influenced by European leadership and tended to defer to European initiatives. The Revolutionary War, the War of 1812 and the American Civil War still loomed large in the US collective memory. The conquest of former Spanish possessions was a source of pride and wonder. The Great War and the Versailles Conference of 1919 changed all that, as did the profits made by supplying materiel to the war, such as the cargo of RMS Lusitania. The US started to acquire a sense of its own power, becoming self-confident and disdainful of Europe in the process.

WW2 was slightly different as the US perceived an existential threat, something absent in WW1 which was a reluctant war of choice. The defeat of France in 1940 and the near defeat of Britain early that year rang a very loud bell in Washington, reinforced by the negative views of anti-British (and anti-Semitic) Ambassador Joe Kennedy. The possibility of a hostile battle-fleet in the North Atlantic that could terrorise the US East Coast was suddenly very real. If Britain had fallen or entered an armistice alliance with Germany, a combined RN/Kriegsmarine/French Navy would have been invincible; the US Atlantic fleet could not have prevailed. Add to that the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and the US Navy could have found itself on the defensive, if not annihilated, in two oceans. The two great moats that protect the US from Asia and from Europe would have been neutralized and become conduits for attacks on US maritime trade. Axis lodgements on the North American continent or in the Caribbean may have been a further possibility. Fortunately for the West, Britain did not collapse and the Axis powers were geographically separated by Soviet Russia, never developing a combined strategy with pooled resources as the Allies were able to do.

Overall the US has played its cards brilliantly, starting with the Atlantic Charter/Lend Lease and stepping into the shoes of the retrenching British. It is can be said that from c1750 through to possibly 2050, an English-speaking power will have been the determining force in world history. After then, given the Mexicanisation of US demographics, who knows.

The rise of a challenger to the established order has always carried the risk of war. Following the recent love-in at Sunnylands Estate in California, will the Chinese continue their path of usurping US hegemony or will they recognise and heed the US warning? Anyone who fails to see China as a direct threat to the US power structure, and to Western hegemony in general, is missing a very important point, commercial opportunities notwithstanding.

China takes a hierarchical view of state on state relations. In other words, China expects that small states must defer to big states irrespective of other considerations. We can see this in China’s claim to the entire South China Sea, a claim in clear breach of international law in such matters. The South China Sea claim, and China’s parallel claims to islands long occupied and owned by Japan now include Okinawa, and are very real flash-points.

Be assured, Western living standards would be sharply reduced were China to dominate the globe. The exploitation of resources and trade would be determined in a manner solely beneficial to China. After all, the Chinese communist party only retains power by offering a rising living standard to its own people. Their disillusionment is not an option.

12 June 2013 at 08:15  
Blogger Darter Noster said...


It was never my intention to get into the business of raking up old bitternesses, which I know from experience can run very deep even at a great remove of time (my grandfather was part of the force which liberated Bergen-Belsen, for example).

Nor would I defend, by any means, all the actions of the British government during the First World War. You are perfectly correct in asserting that the Lusitania was carrying ammunition - some munitions were listed openly on the ship's manifest. The ship was also listed as an auxilliary cruiser - though many merchant ships were put down as such in peace-time, even if they were not subsequently used in that way.

You are also perfectly correct in stating that Britain and France used propaganda to inflame neutral opinion against Germany; that would seem to be pretty standard procedure during war-time.

You are, however, incorrect in suggesting that German atrocities in Belgium were fabricated. Many of them did not need to be; the Germans were happy to publicise them, as part of a deliberate policy of terrifying occupied populations into good behaviour - a policy which back-fired spectacularly. Many of the reports of them were written by journalists from (then neutral) America working as war correspondents in Belgium. There was certainly exaggeration in the British press for propaganda purposes, but many atrocities, including the mass shootings of civillians at Dinant and Tamines, and the deliberate destruction of Louvain - including the burning of its Mediaeval library - were very real and reported by neutral eye-witnesses.

There was no post-war blockade of Germany; the war ended with the signing of the treaty of Versailles in 1919, when the blockade was lifted. Both sides tried to starve the other into submission through naval blockade, and at one point Britain had only 3 weeks of food supplies remaining; ultimately, however, as with bombing during the Second World War, the Allies proved better at it. As the survivors of Dresden and Tokyo would doubtless testify, when countries are involved in a war for survival terrible things tend to happen. There's no moral high-ground here.

My only concern in all this has been two-fold: firstly, that Britain's participation in the First World War is presented in this country as a futile and pointless mistake, which it was not - the war was as much one of national survival for Britain as the Second World War was. Secondly, that the nature and actions of the Kaiser's regime have been distorted to make it appear as though the First World War was a mutual bid for world domination launched by European imperialists who were as bad as each other. Again, it was not. The fact that the Kaiser's regime was not as bad as Hitler's does not change the fact that the two shared various traits in common, and nor does it alter the fact that the First World War began as a calculated bid by the Imperial German government to secure domination of Europe - one that ultimately went horribly wrong.

12 June 2013 at 10:56  
Blogger Hannah Kavanagh said...

Hi Carl,

Wasn't a blockade used in WWII as well as WWI? Also isn't dropping 2 nuclear weapons to crush a foe, equally as bad as starving people to death- something which you have been very keen of defending on this blog? Or is the argument that burning hundreds of thousands of people to ashes in a matter of seconds is more humane than starvation?

Or is it that war is a terrible thing to find oneself in, but that in the ultimate analysis the aim of both sides is to 'win', whatever the cost?

12 June 2013 at 13:46  
Blogger Hannah Kavanagh said...

Oh and forgot to add, I think a blockade was also used in the American Civil war- which caused your own people a lot of suffering- civilians included...

12 June 2013 at 13:47  
Blogger Albert said...

Well said, Hannah.

When it comes to imperialism, it's worth remembering that America is an empire - at least in the nature of its construction. But if any Americans are inclined to quibble, I suggest they return to their borders of (say) 1776 or so. That way, they might even be able to support Obama's neutrality on the Falklands, without being accused of hypocrisy.

12 June 2013 at 13:59  
Blogger John Wrake said...

Maresfield Park is in Maresfield, East Sussex. In 1914 it was the home of Prince Munster, a distant relation of the Kaiser. At the end of July 1914, he hosted a houseparty which included Prince Heinrich, brother of the Kaiser, who had been visiting England and had met with George V.

Professor Roehl describes what happened and the reasons for it.

John Wrake

12 June 2013 at 14:47  
Blogger carl jacobs said...


An interesting difference emerges. Here is what I wrote.

What of the post-war blockade of Germany?

And Darter responded:

There was no post-war blockade of Germany; the war ended with the signing of the treaty of Versailles in 1919.

If you ask an American (me, for instance) when WWI ended, he will tell you 11 Nov 18. That date is enshrined in the pantheon of American holidays as 'Veteran's Day.' That is when Germany gave up the fight as a defeated nation wholly unable to continue. Sure the war didn't end legally until seven months later. But to continue to blockade food beyond that point simply to maintain leverage in Peace negotiations was gratuitous.


12 June 2013 at 18:08  
Blogger Albert said...


British medals from WWI have the date 1914-1919 on them. 11 November was traditionally known as "Armistice Day" in the UK - that gives a sense of the provisional nature of the peace.

I agree that it was wrong to continue the blockade until 1919 - but that's because I think deliberately starving a civilian population is wicked - like dropping a nuclear bomb on a civilian population. However, if I accepted it, then I would see it as important to continue the blockade until the war was legally ended in a treaty, for fear that, having gained the upper hand, Germany would recover her strength and start fighting again. It's a bit like over-powering a burglar, and then tying him up until the police arrive so that he can't attack you again.

12 June 2013 at 18:43  
Blogger Darter Noster said...


In Britain 11th November is known as Armistice day - because what happened that day was a cessation of hostilities. The German Army, fully equipped and combat-capable even if it was on the run, withdrew gradually from France and Belgium back into Germany. The Allies (note: that includes the USA) began lifting the blockade two months after the Armistice, allowing imports of food in.

Let us not forget that Germany at this stage was bankrupt and in the throes of a revolution; it is all very well to blame the Allied blockade for civilian deaths during this period, but the conditions within Germany caused by an effective state of civil war also played their part. How easy is it to ensure orderly food distribution to those who need it under those conditions? The Allies only occupied a small slice of Western Germany, and could not have got food to the rest of the country.

That does not exculpate the Allies entirely; they did use the blockade as leverage. However, as noted above, the Allies by this stage included the good old US of A and the American navy squadron patrolling the North Seas.

12 June 2013 at 18:48  
Blogger carl jacobs said...


like dropping a nuclear bomb on a civilian population.

Yes, it certainly would have been wicked for the US to drop a third atomic bomb on Japan after it had stated its intention to surrender.


Germany was in no position to continue the war after November. It would not have regathered its strength. It could not have returned to the field. For all practial purposes the war ended in Nov 1918.

the Allies by this stage included the good old US of A and the American navy squadron patrolling the North Seas

I didn't state otherwise. I was simply juxtaposing the 'Germanic nature' on which you blamed Belgium with a seemingly non-existent Anglo-Saxon nature that bears no culpability for post-war ... post armistace ... starvation in Germany.


12 June 2013 at 18:58  
Blogger Darter Noster said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

12 June 2013 at 19:00  
Blogger Albert said...


Yes, it certainly would have been wicked for the US to drop a third atomic bomb on Japan after it had stated its intention to surrender.

That's naughty - you know full well I was referring to the principle, not the timing.

12 June 2013 at 19:12  
Blogger Richard Watterson said...

I think you fellows have done this subject to death, if you'll forgive the phrase. And not for the first time I think.

12 June 2013 at 19:16  
Blogger Darter Noster said...


I don't blame any of what happened in 1914-1918 on any sort of "Germanic nature". I blame it on a section of the German military and government which believed that the only way to secure Germany's rightful place in the world, and living space for her people (the Nazis didn't invent that one; they were just more fixated on Eastern Europe than Africa), was to seize them by force.

Prominent in that section of the German military and government were 3 beliefs that the Nazis would develop to their logical extent: 1) Germany lacked sufficient living space for a healthy people, 2) The only way for Germany to gain that space was by force, and 3) Weaker peoples were condemned to eradication by the stronger, in a pseudo-Darwinist view of human development.

Just as I specifically did not exculpate the Allies, I specifically did not suggest that the German people were responsible for any of this; just many of those who held prominent positions in the German Army and Government. Britain, France and the USA, whatever their individual failings, were fully justified in standing up to attempts to impose that world view by force, as they would be again in 1939.

12 June 2013 at 19:21  
Blogger LEN said...

Having read through' the comments section' I see the thinking behind H M`s Government wanting to remain neutral on the subject.

Probably doesn`t want to start another war!.

12 June 2013 at 19:31  
Blogger Darter Noster said...

Believing that these commemorations are not the appropriate place to dwell on who started it is perfectly laudable; accepting that we all started is historical revisionism.

12 June 2013 at 19:38  
Blogger Hannah Kavanagh said...

HI Carl,

To add to Albert's analogy, imagine if you are British, French or Italian. For 4 years the Germans have been able to crush the French army by 1917, practically starve Britain to death because of U Boat campaigns and conquered vast parts of the Russian Empire and forced a thousand year old Empire into Bolshevik revolution, as confirmed in the humiliation of The Treaty of Brest-Litovsk?

Germany in WWWI 'nicer' than WWII? (As Darter has hinted).

This conflict, against the combined forces of 2 world empires and Russia (and Japan, China and other powers); then America *who'd been loaning money & material to the allies (um Britain) at profit for those years* -#they hired the money didn't they?#and facing a blockade (which only hit home, such was the efficiency of Germany, by the end of the war).

How do you think that the European powers would feel?

Note -America could have stopped the blockade, but they did not. But perhaps Wilson's 14 points were too idealistic- the 'Bob' solution of hippie 'peace man '-for a continent ravaged by bloody war.

Sorry Carl, but you have consistently defended dropping nuclear weapons on Japan on this blog. Why? To make sure the Japanese surrendered and making sure they stayed under the american foot. There is no difference between that and the blockade of Germany until the treaty of Versailles.

Note - that the German army was NOT defeated in the field, which gave rise to the 'stabbed in the back' theory (by German Jews). Hence why in WWII the allies went all the way to the bunker to make sure that the Germans *knew* they were busted.

Hope the above rant helps! (:

12 June 2013 at 19:57  
Blogger Darter Noster said...

Let's be clear, Hannah me dear - they HAD been defeated on the battlefield, by a combination of better tactics, better equipment and greater resources; the Stab in the Back legend was based on a potent combination of nationalist wishful thinking and complete bollocks. They hadn't, however, actually been cornered and beaten into the ground, though.

General Pershing and the other commanders of the AEF were of the opinion that accepting the Armistice was a mistake, and that the German Army should not be allowed to march back as if unbeaten. If that were allowed to happen, he said in 1918,

"We will only have to come back in twenty years and do it all over again."

12 June 2013 at 20:12  
Blogger Hannah Kavanagh said...

Hi Darter,

'Let's be clear, Hannah me dear - they HAD been defeated on the battlefield,'

Well love,

That may be objectively true. However, you must be aware of the
POPULAR HISTORY- PSYCHOLOGY of the situation- the allies never entered the Reich proper (unlike WWII) and therefore led to the belief that Germany had been defeated by the bolsheviks and Jews.... or 'stabbed in the back' as for whatever reason they could have done what they tried to do in WWII (don't forget at that time Germany controlled half of European Russia, as I noted above).

No justification, btw, for that theory from this Jew. Just trying to view things as they were seen at the time...

12 June 2013 at 20:42  
Blogger Rambling Steve Appleseed said...

Don't blame 'the Germans' blame their leaders and blame the Christless philosophies they followed. Check out Richard Weikart's scholarly study ' From Darwin to Hitler'.

My recomendation for the commemoration is wall to wall showing of the best film ever made 'All quiet on the western front' plus lots of Siegfried Sassoon.

Best short poem of WW1 was by Rudyard Kipling, who sent his only son to die.

'If any ask you why we died

Tell them 'because our fathers lied'

12 June 2013 at 20:43  
Blogger Darter Noster said...

Hi Hannah,

It's the pop history bit I'm all too aware of - the popular perception up to the present day that the Western Front was a military fiasco and that the Germans only lost because of a combination of blockade and revolution.

By the way, I didn't mean to be patronising -I just liked the rhyme :o)

And it prompted you to call me 'love', which has made my day *swoon* :o)

12 June 2013 at 20:57  
Blogger Phil Roberts said...

"Lord Dannatt: Gay marriage Bill goes against what I've fought for as a soldier"

I have often wondered how our Grandfathers would rate the country that they fought for, died for, or suffered appalling illness as a result of the war for.

Would they be pleased with Gay marraige, contempt for virtue in those that lead us, selfishness, state dismantling of the family

How many would say now seeing today's world and the contempt now displayed for their values, would still say that their their sacrifice was worth it?

Not many I guess. I doubt if even many of the Gay soldiers would be happy with what we have done with their freedom.

Just a thought


12 June 2013 at 21:12  
Blogger Richard Watterson said...


It's a pretty silly thought.

12 June 2013 at 21:16  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...

Phil. How many would say now seeing today's world and the contempt now displayed for their values, would still say that their sacrifice was worth it?

Quite a few were still around during the disastrous post WW2 coloured immigration tragedy AND voiced their opinions. In the 1970s, the National Front was the fourth biggest party in England. You have to ask yourself why that was and whether grandfather’s views had any influence. Dad, who fought in WW2, had for sure, and he may well have been involved in NF organisation...

12 June 2013 at 21:27  
Blogger Hannah Kavanagh said...

Hi Darter,

That's OK. I was brought up to be a patriotic British Jew, with a basic grasp of our 'island history' *as our uncle says *who loves her faith and her British-Irish-Jewish heritage & family. Despite what other people say here about us. And you will have to excuse the 'love' bit. That is my twin sister's sharp wit coming through. (:

But 'swoon' away!

PS- my various uncles, like your father, both Christian and Jewish, fought and died during WWII for the flag of justice and freedom

#They went with songs to the battle, they were young.
Straight of limb, true of eyes, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted,
They fell with their faces to the foe.
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.#

12 June 2013 at 21:33  
Blogger Darter Noster said...

You raise an interesting issue, Phil.

5 million British and Commonwealth soldiers served on the Western Front; within those ranks there would have been many socialists, liberals, conservatives, devout religious, atheists, agnostics, gay people, homophobes - the list is endless. The range of views of modern society would most likely have been similarly broad.

Many of those men went on to be the politicians, philosophers, artists, businessmen, scientists, etc who helped shape our current society, right up to the 198Os. The influence of those who fought in the First World War is deeper than we will ever realise.

Some of those men witnessed contemporary society first-hand - as of 1998 there were 300 British First World War veterans still alive; two of them, Harry Patch and Henry Allingham, only died a few years ago. The last veteran of the 1914 Christmas Truce died in 2005. When I was a teenager Harry Patch wrote a regular column of old man's advice for FHM magazine; if that is not a classic example of old meets new, I'm not sure what is.

Even though they have now all passed away, the men of the Great War continue to shape modern society and bear a responsibility for it which is hard for us to do justice to.

12 June 2013 at 21:36  
Blogger Darter Noster said...

"And you will have to excuse the 'love' bit. That is my twin sister's sharp wit coming through. (:"

Oh Hannah, don't say that - you know you're my number one Cranmer blog pin up girl! :o)

Although the thought that there are in fact two of you behind the avatar intrigues me in ways of which Cressida would almost certainly disapprove :oD

12 June 2013 at 22:04  
Blogger Hannah Kavanagh said...

Hi Darter,

Alas my sister is 'shy, retiring type'- LOL! (unlike me!); besides which if she was ever let loose on this blog it would be like the Velociraptor vs Robert Muldoon...

12 June 2013 at 22:53  
Blogger Darter Noster said...


I can't help but speculate, in my wilder moments - I have them, you know, even though I'm 30 - as to what it would be like if the regular faces on this blog were suddenly placed in the same room :oD Just watching us trying to figure out who everyone else was would be an experience!

12 June 2013 at 23:00  
Blogger Hannah Kavanagh said...

Hi Darter,

Well, we'd be the ones with the big noses! LOL!

12 June 2013 at 23:26  
Blogger carl jacobs said...


I have never advocated any military action between 15 August 1945 and 3 September 1945 - which would be the correct analogy. I have no problem with the blockade during the war. But there was no further point to blockading food once the Armistice was signed. No fighting occurred after the Armistice. The Kaiser was gone. The German Army was at that point no longer a credible force.


12 June 2013 at 23:58  
Blogger Darter Noster said...

By the way Hannah, following on from what you said about your family's war record, I wondered if you were aware of the 5 British Jews who won the Victoria Cross during the First World War...

You may well be, but if not their details can be found here: http://jewishsoldiers.com/our-vc-s-ww1/

As the 100th anniversary approaches, they deserve to be recognised.

13 June 2013 at 00:27  
Blogger Hannah Kavanagh said...

HI Carl,

I see the point you are making...

Hi Darter,


14 June 2013 at 08:19  
Blogger IanCad said...

A bit late now I know, but Michael Portillo is hosting a series on BBC Radio 4 titled:

1913: The Year Before

I have just listened to the second episode.

Good Stuff!

Radio 4 is a national treasure.

14 June 2013 at 14:38  
Blogger DanJ0 said...

Portillo seems to have found his true vocation in the media.

16 June 2013 at 07:42  
Blogger DanJ0 said...

Phil: "I have often wondered how our Grandfathers would rate the country that they fought for, died for, or suffered appalling illness as a result of the war for."

But why stop there? If we went back to WWI and ask again then what would they say? Women having a vote? The class system and people knowing "their place" dismantled? Most women in work? Women wearing strappy tops and short skirts?

Or perhaps they'd be impressed with the breadth of education now? Our health service. Our harnessing of technology. The freedom to travel all over the world. Our longevity. Cleanliness. Access to information, and social media in general.

16 June 2013 at 07:56  

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