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Ghazala

The Great War was a grim necessity

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Medaler
5 hours ago, Muerrisch said:

The Great War was neither futile nor glorious but a grim necessity

 

We must remember that the majority* of Britons thought the First World War was worth fighting

* in the text this becomes "vast"

 

 

 

Sorry, that's my fault. Lazy and sloppy of me not to have quoted correctly. The misquote mirrors what I think rather than what the Prof. actually wrote. I'm afraid I got carried away there.

 

My views on that however are based on something rather than nothing - even if that "something" is not very much. Stuff that would include acknowledging the numbers of civilians who volunteered to actively help the war effort in one way or another, sentiments I have seen frequently expressed in private correspondence of the era, and an apparent lack of enthusiasm for protesting against the war in comparison to the numbers who actually volunteered to take an active part.

 

All pointless without numbers - but an opinion based on something rather than nothing.

 

Mike

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Kimberley John Lindsay

Dear Mike,

I suspect that you are absolutely right...

Kindest regards,

Kim.

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2ndCMR
On 29/09/2018 at 14:31, Kimberley John Lindsay said:

Dear 2nd CMR,

Hindsight is easy...

Kindest regards,

Kim.

 

I referred as much to the prologue as to the past; do you not care to see?

If hindsight is easy, one wonders why it is so little applied where it might be of some utility?

Certainly we live in interesting times, for to watch the greatest civilization of human history fade into gradual obscurity due to the industry of the stupid and the criminal, and idleness of the intelligent and well-intentioned is a spectacle hard to appreciate without having seen it; one that has puzzled the historians of the past and will puzzle those of the future.

Character it seems is fate, for nations as much as individuals.

 

 

Edited by 2ndCMR

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Muerrisch
8 hours ago, Medaler said:

 

Sorry, that's my fault. Lazy and sloppy of me not to have quoted correctly. The misquote mirrors what I think rather than what the Prof. actually wrote. I'm afraid I got carried away there.

 

My views on that however are based on something rather than nothing - even if that "something" is not very much. Stuff that would include acknowledging the numbers of civilians who volunteered to actively help the war effort in one way or another, sentiments I have seen frequently expressed in private correspondence of the era, and an apparent lack of enthusiasm for protesting against the war in comparison to the numbers who actually volunteered to take an active part.

 

All pointless without numbers - but an opinion based on something rather than nothing.

 

Mike

 

Medaler: Now you have my undivided attention! Two problems here. My quotation was a clean cut and paste from Ghazala's original post. The original post also contains the phrase  "Yet the historical record is clear. In Britain, the vast majority of people thought the war was worth fighting," 

Unless Medaler = Ghazala [in which case someone's cover is blown] I am completely baffled by your confession.

 

The second problem is that given that there is no identification of the error, we do not know if the OP meant "vast" or not. Either way, what did Prof. Sheffield write?

 

 

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Muerrisch
26 minutes ago, Gunga Din said:

 

In the original article (in the Times - 13th August 2018) it is as pasted in the OP. "vast" is introduced in the body of the text but not in the headline. 

 

Edit. The long string of comments below the article in the Times is far more illuminating as a gauge of what people think today.  

 

 

Thank you.

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Steven Broomfield
59 minutes ago, Gunga Din said:

One of the most interesting aspects of this thread is that it has highlighted just how difficult it is to research British attitudes during the Great War.

 

 

Which, I suspect, might well be why Mass Observation came along in the 30's.

1 hour ago, Gunga Din said:

 

It seems quite clear that the British Government wielded its extraordinary emergency powers to suppress many dissenting voices

 

 

 

Which makes perfect sense in the case of war a l'outrance, I would say.

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voltaire60
2 minutes ago, Gunga Din said:

 

I would agree, but I was slightly surprised the extent to which the Govt was suppressing anti-war literature as early as 7th August 1914.  It also make it more difficult to know what the 'nation' believed; persecuting people with an anti-war view has one important effect - it creates widespread fear to openly express a view, which by extension makes it even more difficult to really know what the nation believed.

 

I would add that being pro-war when there was zero chance of being conscripted (on age, fitness or gender) might also tip the scales of what the nation 'thought'. To my mind the more insightful questions  - not addressed in the article - should be what proportion of the men who fought did it willingly and what proportion thought it worth fighting. We have a reasonable proxy for the first part of the question and no idea about the second part. 

 

Gunga Din

 

 

 

 

 

      One of the problems of measuring any form of opinion is that of the apathetic- who,in matters such as conscription, tend not to be apathetic per se but"tactically apathetic".  The statement that 2 million men of military age did not attest under the Derby Scheme does NOT prove that 2 million men were against the war. It means that in 1915 (largely), where there was a choice allowed, they,as individuals, put other things first-mostly family.  What needs to be qualified in the "2 million" figure is how many subsequently were enrolled under conscription and how many are recorded as having opposed it all the way-which are much fewer numbers. I suspect that a great number of the non-attesters served their country in the armed forces under conscription but chose to hang on until called for under some "rational" scheme of  selecting men, which does not mean that they opposed the war.

    Although there were protests and a fair amount of debate about the introduction of conscription, two things have to be separated out- the first is the point of principle-whether to have conscription at all, which has a long tradition and was the subject of strong campaigns either way headed by Lord Roberts and Sir Ian Hamilton. The second is WHO should be conscripted- by age, skill(or lack of), etc.  The arguments and politics of these are different matters and who did what during the war is different on whether they were arguing over the principle or the practicality.

    Britain has a long tradition of  allowing non-voting, unlike countries such as Australia.  The consequence of this is that those who are not known to fall one way in an argument cannot be presumed to be at the other end of the argument. It means. largely, that a large number -usually called the "silent majority" (even if not,technically a majority) will go along with whatever the decision is,one way or the other. The most obvious sign is the perennial matter of "contracting in" or "contracting out" of the political levy of trade unions- usually, whatever way means not having to do anything is the majority.

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voltaire60
13 minutes ago, Gunga Din said:

, it necessarily means they were conscripted willingly and thought the war worth fighting.

 

    That's not what I said.  There is a world of difference between  between being conscripted willingly (whatever that means?), conscripted unwillingly and being part of a war "worth fighting" . All human activity is a series of evolving choices,which may or may not appear to be daft to a later generation. The introduction of the MSA was not a level playing field for arguments about "worth fighting"  -   MSA introduced a whole series of sanctions which were not there under the voluntary system or the Derby Scheme.  Thus, one cannot compare like with like. 2 million men did not attest under the Derby Scheme because,consciously, they could make that choice.. 2 million men were in a different position after the introduction of MSA because not taking part in a war (via conscription) was a choice that carried heavy sanctions with it.  Line of least resistance is a powerful director of human action.

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Terry_Reeves

I made some of the points expressed by GD above earlier in the debate. The problem with debates such as this where the rubric as presented is somewhat limited in scope.  Wars do not just start on one date and  finish precisely on a particular. There always underlying reasons which pre-date this, often years before the actual warfare commences and which have consequences far beyond the actual hostilities; WW1 is precisely a case in point.  How much did the quite long pre-war campaign for conscription by the pro-conscription lobby have on the populace? How much effect did the raft of novels starting in the 1870's, very thinly disguising Germany as a demon who would invade Briton, a theme eagerly jumped upon the lobby mentioned above motivate people in 1914 and early 1915 to enlist. Not forgetting the "scare-ship"  stories that abounded pre-war. After the outbreak of war the propaganda machine got to work aided by a largely compliant press.  German "Kulture", which a few short months previously had been admired by a lot of the British middling classes, was attacked in then press and attitudes changed or may have been suppressed, lest they were thought to have been unpatriotic. That is to say nothing about the white feathers and let's not forget that the 

 

One thing is clear is that public opinion was not uniform and with the introduction of conscription there were few choices anyway.  But I would posit this, how much did the population really know about the events leading to war - the secret treaties and alliances? In fact they knew almost nothing and it came as something of a shock post-war when it all came out. Whether it would have made any difference who knows? But then it was done - until the continuum 21 years later.

 

TR

Edited by Terry_Reeves

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charlie962

This 2012  book, which has previously been mentioned on this forum, is perhaps not quite afordable but her earlier thesis at TCD can be accessed here.

 

 

607638607_PennellOpinion1914.JPG.29bfc8927a51a470aef18bc265e5ab3f.JPG

 

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charlie962

Thesis conclusions:

This thesis makes two fundamental conclusions. Firstly, it demonstrates that describing the reactions of over 40 million British and Irish people to the outbreak of war in 1914 as either enthusiastic in the British case or disengaged in the Irish is over-simplified and inadequate. A society as complex as the United Kingdom in the Edwardian era did not have a single, uniform reaction to such a major event as the outbreak of European war. Emotional reactions to the war were ambiguous and complex, and changed over time. A general emotional chronology can be traced over the course of the first five months of war. Surprise at the outbreak of war on 4th August was followed by a fortnight of chaos and dislocation. However, by late August the majority of the population were beginning to understand what was involved in modern warfare. People voluntarily rallied around the national cause, purged their fears of the external German enemy by seeking scapegoats within, in the form of enemy spies and aliens, and imagined and encountered violence. By early-September most people were firmly ‘inside the war’, of which they could see no end. The second conclusion derives from situating Ireland firmly within the history of the United Kingdom at war in 1914. Whilst domestic politics in Britain were suspended, just as in France and Germany, war became part of the politics of domestic peace in Ireland. Despite concerns over potential dissidence amongst Irish nationalists, following the outbreak of war the majority of Irish men and women of all political persuasions rallied around the British cause and supported the war. Any dissent amongst advanced nationalists was limited and those involved knew how constrained their position was. Therefore despite the fragility of the relationship between Britain and Ireland, Kingdom was United in 1914.

 

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Medaler
9 hours ago, Muerrisch said:

 

Medaler: Now you have my undivided attention! Two problems here. My quotation was a clean cut and paste from Ghazala's original post. The original post also contains the phrase  "Yet the historical record is clear. In Britain, the vast majority of people thought the war was worth fighting," 

Unless Medaler = Ghazala [in which case someone's cover is blown] I am completely baffled by your confession.

 

The second problem is that given that there is no identification of the error, we do not know if the OP meant "vast" or not. Either way, what did Prof. Sheffield write?

 

 

 

I will start by saying sorry again.

 

I saw your post and thought that I was responsible for introducing the word "vast" - apparently not.

 

Medaler = Ghazala - Nope. I am quite flattered by that, but suspect that he isn't.

 

Regards,

Mike (Medaler)

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Muerrisch
1 hour ago, Medaler said:

 

I will start by saying sorry again.

 

I saw your post and thought that I was responsible for introducing the word "vast" - apparently not.

 

Medaler = Ghazala - Nope. I am quite flattered by that, but suspect that he isn't.

 

Regards,

Mike (Medaler)

 

Thank you very much. Grovel not.

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Gunga Din
On 10/8/2018 at 7:56 PM, charlie962 said:

Thesis conclusions:

This thesis makes two fundamental conclusions. Firstly, it demonstrates that describing the reactions of over 40 million British and Irish people to the outbreak of war in 1914 as either enthusiastic in the British case or disengaged in the Irish is over-simplified and inadequate. A society as complex as the United Kingdom in the Edwardian era did not have a single, uniform reaction to such a major event as the outbreak of European war. Emotional reactions to the war were ambiguous and complex, and changed over time. A general emotional chronology can be traced over the course of the first five months of war. Surprise at the outbreak of war on 4th August was followed by a fortnight of chaos and dislocation. However, by late August the majority of the population were beginning to understand what was involved in modern warfare. People voluntarily rallied around the national cause, purged their fears of the external German enemy by seeking scapegoats within, in the form of enemy spies and aliens, and imagined and encountered violence. By early-September most people were firmly ‘inside the war’, of which they could see no end. The second conclusion derives from situating Ireland firmly within the history of the United Kingdom at war in 1914. Whilst domestic politics in Britain were suspended, just as in France and Germany, war became part of the politics of domestic peace in Ireland. Despite concerns over potential dissidence amongst Irish nationalists, following the outbreak of war the majority of Irish men and women of all political persuasions rallied around the British cause and supported the war. Any dissent amongst advanced nationalists was limited and those involved knew how constrained their position was. Therefore despite the fragility of the relationship between Britain and Ireland, Kingdom was United in 1914.

 

 

Charlie

 

Thanks for the link.

 

Gunga Din

Edited by Gunga Din
typos and typos

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Medaler
On 08/10/2018 at 18:17, Gunga Din said:

 

It is a point of interest that there is no 1916-1918 Star. It would be interesting to explore the reasons behind that decision. 

 

Gunga Din

 

The award of the 14-15 Star was to some degree intended to put right the inequality of the qualifications required for the 1914 Star. As the latter was only awarded for service ashore in France and Belgium it was effectively biased in favour of the army. The navy received no equivalent for service afloat. The 14-15 Star extended the qualifying criteria to allow for them to be similarly recognised.

 

Anther influencing factor however was pressure from Australia and New Zealand for their troops to receive a similar form of recognition - they obviously failed to qualify for the 1914 Star. The Australians even went so far as to design and plan for the award of a Gallipoli Star, ultimately it was not sanctioned because there was no intention of also awarding it to the (majority) British troops who had fought in that campaign. The 14-15 Star therefore also filled that gap by being awarded to all who had taken part in that theatre of operations.

 

So the origins of the 2 Stars that were issued have very little to do with how or where their recipients were recruited. For instance, I own an example of a 14 Star that was awarded to a man with no prior military service who volunteered after war had been declared. Whilst it is quite interesting, its not unique.

 

One point of interest is that it was originally envisaged that the silver British War Medal would be issued with clasps (like the Queen's South Africa of the Boer War). That proposal was however dropped on the grounds of cost. The logistics of getting the clasp combinations right on every individual medal would indeed have been a nightmare, and some of the lads would doubtless have qualified for so many that they might have made watch chains out of them. You do sometimes see privately made "unofficial" clasps on these medals, but they are rare.

 

Mike

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Gunga Din
On 10/10/2018 at 12:11 AM, Medaler said:

 

The award of the 14-15 Star was to some degree intended to put right the inequality of the qualifications required for the 1914 Star. As the latter was only awarded for service ashore in France and Belgium it was effectively biased in favour of the army. The navy received no equivalent for service afloat. The 14-15 Star extended the qualifying criteria to allow for them to be similarly recognised.

 

Anther influencing factor however was pressure from Australia and New Zealand for their troops to receive a similar form of recognition - they obviously failed to qualify for the 1914 Star. The Australians even went so far as to design and plan for the award of a Gallipoli Star, ultimately it was not sanctioned because there was no intention of also awarding it to the (majority) British troops who had fought in that campaign. The 14-15 Star therefore also filled that gap by being awarded to all who had taken part in that theatre of operations.

 

So the origins of the 2 Stars that were issued have very little to do with how or where their recipients were recruited. For instance, I own an example of a 14 Star that was awarded to a man with no prior military service who volunteered after war had been declared. Whilst it is quite interesting, its not unique.

 

One point of interest is that it was originally envisaged that the silver British War Medal would be issued with clasps (like the Queen's South Africa of the Boer War). That proposal was however dropped on the grounds of cost. The logistics of getting the clasp combinations right on every individual medal would indeed have been a nightmare, and some of the lads would doubtless have qualified for so many that they might have made watch chains out of them. You do sometimes see privately made "unofficial" clasps on these medals, but they are rare.

 

Mike

 

Mike

 

Thank you for that explanation.

 

Gunga Din

Edited by Gunga Din

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Medaler
1 hour ago, Gunga Din said:

 

Mike

 

Thank you for that explanation. Serving in France within the dates did not necessarily trigger the award of the 1914 Star. I think the Indian Army's base wallahs at Marseilles did not qualify for example. I suspect the same might apply to men stuck at Le Havre.

In your view the cut-off date for the 1914-15 Star at end 1915 has nothing to do with the end of the Voluntary period? I had always assumed  - perhaps incorrectly - that the Stars were awarded to the men who volunteered. 

Presumably the RND were awarded the 1914 Star for the Antwerp fiasco?

I have never really understood the dates for the 1914 Star. Why men who fought between those dates should be specially recognised compared to the men who fought the bitter battles of Dec 1914. A subject for another thread. 

 

Gunga Din

 

 

"Thank you for that explanation. Serving in France within the dates did not necessarily trigger the award of the 1914 Star. I think the Indian Army's base wallahs at Marseilles did not qualify for example. I suspect the same might apply to men stuck at Le Havre."

 

Not something I have delved into to be honest, you may be right but I can't give a definitive answer. Having "come under fire" however was a qualification for the clasp and not the 14 Star itself.

 

"In your view the cut-off date for the 1914-15 Star at end 1915 has nothing to do with the end of the Voluntary period? I had always assumed  - perhaps incorrectly - that the Stars were awarded to the men who volunteered."

 

No, nothing to do with volunteering dates directly, though there are obviously "trends" to be observed. If the intention had been to deliberately reward certain type of qualifying enlistment dates they could have been specified in the award criteria. There are several "Service" Btn's for example that didn't go overseas until after the qualifying period for the 15 Star. Foresters are a major unit in my local area and their 15th, 16th, and 17th are examples of Bns that didn't land until 1916 - and therefore didn't get 15 Stars.

 

"Presumably the RND were awarded the 1914 Star for the Antwerp fiasco?"

 

Spot on. They were amongst the few Naval recipients of the award. When their Stars do turn up they tend to fetch good prices! By marked contrast the lads involved in the naval engagement at Heligoland Bight got nothing until the 14-15 Star came along - along with all those lost to enemy torpedoes from U-Boats etc.

 

"I have never really understood the dates for the 1914 Star. Why men who fought between those dates should be specially recognised compared to the men who fought the bitter battles of Dec 1914"

 

The dates take into account those who were overseas from the date that war was declared up to the end of 1st Ypres. There were a few in France / Belgium before the BEF started to arrive, but not many. Largely they had either intelligence and diplomatic roles. The end of 1st Ypres chiefly signals the end of the early "mobile" stages of the war and the point at which the members of the original BEF had largely melted away. The same units were there afterwards of course, but with huge numbers of reinforcement drafts in their compositions.

 

Regards,

Mike


 

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Kimberley John Lindsay

Dear Mike,

Well described.

Kindest regards,

Kim.

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Medaler
11 minutes ago, Kimberley John Lindsay said:

Dear Mike,

Well described.

Kindest regards,

Kim.

 

Thanks Kim,

 

It is kind of a "potted version" without going into huge detail about the actual award criteria. As you know the medals are my specialist subject - but there are many more folk who frequent these pages that know more than I do. I'm just glad the questions never mentioned the Territorial Force War Medal - nightmare!

 

Mike

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Kimberley John Lindsay

Dear Mike,

What about the Territorial Force War Medal?

Kindest regards,

Kim.

PS: It was grossly unfair to deprive those Territorials of the TFWM, just because they qualified for the 15 Star.

Edited by Kimberley John Lindsay

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Medaler
3 hours ago, Kimberley John Lindsay said:

Dear Mike,

What about the Territorial Force War Medal?

Kindest regards,

Kim.

PS: It was grossly unfair to deprive those Territorials of the TFWM, just because they qualified for the 15 Star.

 

Straying dangerously off topic, but I've never quite got my head around all the award criteria. I'm pretty sure that there must be something amongst them that states that if you disembarked in a theatre of war on a Wednesday, and it was raining, you didn't qualify. :D

 

Mike

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charlie962
On 09/10/2018 at 20:52, Gunga Din said:

a noble effort to attempt to assess the national mood

 

1. She was very clearly restrictng her assessment to 1914. So no mention of MSA etc is fair.

 

2. She justified at some length her use of local newspapers as a fair reflection of mood. Would this not count as extending the sample ?

 

3. I notice a 'Gary Sheffield' in the list of people thanked in 2008 ?

 

4. I wonder how much her book moved on from this thesis and how much her more recent lectures have developed this theme.

 

Charlie

 

 

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Ghazala
On 08/10/2018 at 09:30, Muerrisch said:

 

Medaler: 

 

Unless Medaler = Ghazala [in which case someone's cover is blown] 

 

 

Sorry to disappoint you but Ghazala is just Ghazala.  Not anyone else.  I am happy in my little world down here in Dorset and enjoying all the replies from my OP.

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ireland12345

Some wars, like inevitably ww1 have to be fought,but i would resent having to go to risk my life when the politicians who started the war sit comfy at home safe.Its a pity in ww1 the politicains where not the ones first over the top! from all sides! James.

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Steven Broomfield
2 hours ago, ireland12345 said:

Some wars, like inevitably ww1 have to be fought,but i would resent having to go to risk my life when the politicians who started the war sit comfy at home safe.Its a pity in ww1 the politicains where not the ones first over the top! from all sides! James.

 

I suspect all wars qualify under that proviso.

 

I believe Anthony Farrar-Hockley, in his book on the Somme, quoted the poet Cowper:

 

'War's a game which, were their subjects wise, kings would not play at'. Sometimes politicians are forced into unwise decisions by power from below. You can't just blame the politicians.

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