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Was it Worth It?

You don't need me to tell you that the First World War was a turning point in British history. In fact it may have been THE turning point. The conflict is all too often portrayed in British popular memory as futile. I can believe that my great-grandfathers were duped by their political masters and social betters and herded like cattle to the slaughter grounds. As two of them were killed in the war and the other two died long before I was born, I never had the chance to ask them what their thoughts were when war broke out. What did they believed was worth risking death to defend? But the First World War was not an exercise in futility. The Germans were stopped. It's too often forgotten that the German commanders who pillaged and murdered and created so much havoc during the Second World War had learned their trade during the First. The populations of German-occupied France and Belgium were enslaved and starved. Hostages seized by the Germans to ensure local good behaviour were murdered. One of the greatest libraries in Europe was torched. The only things missing from equation were Death Camps. The Kaiser's Germany was a vigorous and lusty parent of Nazi Germany. The Treaty of Versailles was indeed a mistake. It was harsh enough to create resentment in Germany but not harsh enough to prevent the Germans resuming the work they had started in 1914. If you want to talk about harsh peace treaties, have a look at the one the military dictators who ran Germany imposed on the Russians in March 1918.

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