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The build up to war.
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THE ROAD TO WAR -
Kent
 
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 had done.
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 on Germany”.
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.

In 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.
The 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 trenches.
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 did.
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!
   
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