ROAD TO WAR -
|The Build up to War!
|Jealousies over power were suddenly combined with greed and envy
as each country sought their own selfish desires, whatever the cost,
whatever the price to pay…the eventual price exceeded all
expectations, for when this conflict of great magnitude was finally
over, the world would recoil in horror and disbelief at what it
There could be no way out of the confrontation that was to soon
follow, as these powerful empires headed towards a war that would
encompass the whole earth.
The peaceful days had certainly passed, the nightmare of total war
was about to begin, it would be thrust upon mankind as never before
witnessed in mans entire history on the earth.
The year of 1914, would be remembered in mans history as the beginning
of the end for mankind, and shrouded in evil overtones for the coming
future. It would be marked as a significant time period where “Man
would dominate Man” to his own injury and destruction. This
coming war and those to follow would engulf mankind in some of the
worst most evil atrocities ever perpetrated by man against his fellowman.
The world in general would become as if possessed by an evil force
that man could not control, had no power over, and they, the leaders
of nations would allow it freely to drag them all into an abyss
of terrible destruction and death. It heralded the mobilization
of millions men across the continents of the world…”The
First World War”…had begun…!
German Kaiser Wilhelm
II – Ready for War!
|The march was on for a confrontation between
the mighty super-powers of Europe, the onslaught of killing and
war had started and could not be stopped.
The vast Empire of Austria mobilized their troops, Germany as their
Allies did the same. France prepared for war, as did Belgium, as
Britain was their Allies it would support them both.
Britain soon followed suit and a general mobilization of her troops
would quickly take effect, for on the morning of August 3rd 1914,
Sir Edward Grey, the British Foreign Minister came to discern that
there was no way out of the crisis, all diplomatic avenues had failed
to find an agreement, Britain’s obligations to France and
Belgium for military cooperation were evident, Britain was duty
bound to support them.
On that same day which turned out to be beautiful and sunny one,
the people of England would enjoy the Bank Holiday and try to put
out of their minds the thoughts of war. Thousands flocked to seaside
towns to swim and take in the sunshine, many found their own pleasures
in parks and gardens to relax. But their day of pleasure and enjoyment
for this generation and the generations that would follow, was soon
to be shattered that day and for many years to come!
The nation soon heard the terrible news on the radio and read it
in newspapers, posters had been plastered on billboards across the
country, that war had been declared by France on Germany, the people
were shocked and in utter disbelief, they now knew only too well
that Britain would also be involved and dragged into the impending
disaster to come.
Sir Edward Grey, had remarked to a colleague a few days before “The
lamps are going out all over Europe”…How prophetic his
words were to become.
At 24.00 hours on the night of August 3rd, he informed the Cabinet
and the War Office…”That Britain had now declared war
All the “Four Great Powers” of Europe were now at war!
|The call had gone out to the Nation to
prepare for war by the Prime Minister Herbert Asquith, he had told
the British people, “That every man and woman is expected
to do their duty”.
The men and young boys of England rallied in support of the call,
they did not fail in their obligation to King and Country, thousands
upon thousands began to sign up for the “Kings Shilling”.
All too soon the call for more volunteers followed, now millions
of men were called to arms in a wave of absent minded fervor and
patriotic duty, each man determined to win his own fight for freedom
against the enemy.
Men from every corner of the British Empire and its Commonwealth
countries were enlisted, they were jubilant for the chance to fight
for their King and Country. It brought a strange hysteria to millions
as nations grew impatient to get on with the battle, each man ready
and willing to kill his fellow man in a bloody struggle that would
eventually bring all the nations of the earth to a near total collapse.
This war would not forge the peace that they would kill and die
for but destroy the youth of every generation that fought in it.
It would cultivate in the minds of those who participated ideas
of a greater destruction that would soon follow this one.
As massed German troops headed for the Belgian border, in a hope
to break through into France by the easiest route and capture Paris,
the King of Belgium had implored the British King George V, to aid
them…Only the B.E.F could aid them now!
By the 14th August 1914, the German Army had cut great swathes through
the countryside of Belgium and reached the capital Brussels. On
marching through the city they were attacked by civilians determined
to resist the enemy, shots rang out and fighting ensued, in retribution
for these attacks the Germans cold bloodedly arrested and executed
600 Belgian civilians.
fear of their lives hundreds of Belgians fled the city, taking what
they could in cars, vans, carts and on bicycles…they had now
become refugees in their own land.The German Army marched on determined
to obliterate all in its path as they headed towards the French
border, there seemed little hope of anyone being able to stop them.
mighty French Army were prepared and ready for what was to come,
but all they could do was wait in great fear and trepidation as
to what they would have to face when the enemy finally came into
sight.So it came to pass, the confrontation had begun in Belgium
and France, the killing had started, the long struggle ahead on
the road to war would give the Generals on all sides an insatiable
appetite for killing, death, and destruction, that could not be
satisfied, whatever the price…The price was going to be
very high…beyond all their comprehensions.
In the very first month of the war the “Battle of the Frontiers”
as it was to be named, between the border of Germany and France
in Alsace, had reaped terrible casualties for over 200, 000 French
alone had been killed…it was a disaster for the French Army.
|In early September 1914, the German Army were so far
advanced that they were only 30 miles (50kms) from Paris, their
plan was to encircle the city acting as a great wheel to surround
the capital and eventually seize it.
Realizing the serious threat that this now posed, General Joffre
immediately requisitioned all the Paris taxis and coaches to ferry
thousands of waiting troops up to the front line in them, in a firm
belief that this would hold back the enemy from advancing any nearer
to their capital.
Paris taxis and coaches ferrying
soldiers up to the Front Line
||On their arrival they were entrenched with the tens
of thousands of other troops already positioned there. Shortly an
order to counter attack along the whole 100 mile (60kms) length
of the front line, from Verdun to Paris was issued. The “Battle
of the Marne” was about to begin.In the very early days of
the First World War, politicians and Generals had arrogantly and
unbelievably stated, “This war will be over by Christmas”.
To the majority this seemed an easy task, but little thought was
given to the fact that this was to become a world war,
German machine-gunners at the ready
| thus encompassing the globe in frightful proportions.The
four months that followed from the outbreak of this conflict certainly
heralded the truth that it would not be a quick and easy war to
win, in fact the casualty list emerging from the front line hospitals
proved beyond all doubt, that this would indeed become a very long
drawn out war.
In August 1914, Austria
alone had lost over 23,000 casualties, and by 11th November 1914,
the Germans had lost 135,000 men, in fearsome battles that raged
all across the continent.
As day passed day the monumental killing that took place surpassed
all the expectations of the Generals and High Command in every army,
still unforgiving as they were, they were determined more than ever
to commence the relentless slaughter of their men!
||The British B.E.F had by December 1914, lost 80,000
men. The casualty figures of the other war dead from battles in
Russia, Italy, Austria, and China, and across the world had not
been calculated, but their losses were even greater up to the Christmas
of that year.
Christmas, the time of “peace and goodwill towards all men”…
British men and boy’s off to war!
|This was after all, the Christmas of 1914 and remembered
by the troops in the front lines who had listened to the fiery Generals
declaring belligerently, in their arrogant presumptions and victory
speeches…”It will all be over by Christmas”. The
soldiers all hoped in what the Generals had said, but they had begun
to lose hope and faith in just words, they knew the truth, and had
to accept it as they were now soldiers of the King, they all took
the “King’s Shilling”…they were now in the
hands of the Generals and Politicians, knowing all too well, that
they would be here for a very long time.
||As the General’s and Officers of High Command
were very comfortably housed in Chateau’s across France and
Belgium eagerly tucking into their hot Christmas dinners accompanied
by wine, port and cognac, being full of joviality and humour, toasting
their victory over the Hun and exchanging the season’s greetings…while
hundreds of thousands of their troops all along the front line cowered
in snow filled trenches.
They were freezing with the bitter cold as they desperately tried
to keep warm huddled around flickering fires, hungering for some
good hot food to stave off their poorly provided rations, and longed
to be with their families and loved ones back home.
Boys as young as 14 and 15 years
old lied about their age to join-up.
|These men were confronted every day with the terrible
realities of war having to endure the absolute misery, fear, horror
and death that these few months of this war had brought, but they
were brave and determined to do their duty as soldiers.
|Despite their own suffering they knew the General’s
at least were enjoying every moment of this Christmas of 1914, with
all the comforts of home being well fed in the warmth of their Headquarters.
But the attitude to the soldiers in the front line by the General’s
enjoying the pleasures of the season was despicably callous, they
most surely uttered to each other “There’s no time for
these “niceties” to our men…they are here to fight,
and there’s a Bloody war to be won”. They were completely
indifferent to the suffering of their own men. All along the British
front line the troops on that cold freezing Christmas night of December
25th 1914, heard the Germans singing “Stille Nacht”
(Silent Night) and saw candles flickering only yards away in their
Chateau’s like this, where the
Generals had a luxury life!
|The soldiers were amazed, but then began to join in
singing the carol as well, soon German and British soldiers were
climbing out of their trenches and meeting face to face in “No
Man’s Land” shaking hands, exchanging the season’s
greetings, and patting each other on the backs in gestures of friendship,
many gifts of chocolate, wine, tins of food, jam, bottles of beer,
cigarettes and tobacco were exchanged as they chatted about their
families and children, photos were shown to each other of their
loved ones at home, so far away.
In some parts of the front line great fun was had as football was
played between British and German soldiers during Christmas, goals
were scored, and shouts of joy exchanged. All too soon this moment
of comradeship between enemies had passed, as they all started to
walk back to their own trenches.
These acts of friendship at the front brought the horror and death
of war to an end even if only for a few hours of their terrible
lives, they just wanted a bit of fun to break the boredom, monotony,
loneliness and cold and killing!.
|Once the Generals had heard about these acts of joviality
and pleasure, they immediately gave orders for all British soldiers
to “Stop Fraternizing With the Enemy” or would find
themselves on a charge.
The order was fully enforced it would not happen again, or ever
For the very next day the battle would begin again, they would be
trying to kill each other without feelings or remorse, yesterday’s
exchanges of friendship and kindness were very soon forgotten.
Such is the irony and hypocrisy of war!