Each year, we lay the wreath. We hear “The Last Post.” We mouth the words “never again” like an incantation. But what does it mean? To answer this question, we have to understand what WWI was.
WWI was an explosion, a breaking point in history. In the smoldering shell hole of that great cataclysm lay the industrial-era optimism of never-ending progress. Old verities about the glory of war lay strewn around the battlefields of that “Great War” like a fallen soldier left to die in No Man’s Land, and along with it lay all the broken dreams of a world order that had been blown apart. Whether we know it or not, we here in the 21st century are still living in the crater of that explosion, the victims of a First World War that we are only now beginning to understand.
In the first two parts of this series we have seen how the WWI conspiracy came to be.
See "Part 1 - To Start A War" here...
See "Part 2 - The American Front" here...
But more important by far is the question of why it happened. For what purpose was such carnage released upon the world? What did the First World War mean?
Part Three - A New World Order
...by the time the battle finished 10 months later, a million casualties lay in its wake. A million stories of routine bravery, like that of the French communications officer. And Verdun was far from the only sign that the stately, sanitized version of 19th century warfare was a thing of the past. Similar carnage played out at the Somme and Gallipoli and Vimy Ridge and Galicia and a hundred other battlefields. Time and again, the generals threw their men into meat grinders, and time and again the dead bodies lay strewn on the other side of that slaughter...
But how did such bloodshed happen? For what purpose? What did the First World War mean?