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The Great War (1914-1918) Forum

Remembered Today:

A reply to more than one post.


baorbrat
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These are just a few of my thoughts on some of the posts.

There is it seems a cult of the dead. The trend to regard all who fought and died as heros. A lot were. A lot were not. They were all people. Some good, some bad, some indifferent. Some hated every moment. Some loved every moment.

Sinners, saints and those inbetween the two. It does not matter on which side they fought and died on.

This applies to those who served and came home too.

The waiting for death,( in the Oh What a Lovely War post?). Dont think so. People tend not to want to die for there country. It is not the way to win wars, or come home. Rather they try and survive the best they can, and, or make the other guy die for his country.

The "What did Grandad Do in the War". What about, what did he do the rest of the time? Grandad had a life too! He had sex. A job at home. Life after the war. He was a man. Do not think his life was a few months in the frontline trench.

Thank you. I feel better now.

Peter

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Have a look at our project on Drill Halls. There you'll find architecture, social history, communities, local politics and the start of the men's journeys. But no dead people.

Gwyn

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Peter,

I agree with some of your comments above. When I research a commander (see my website) I try to find out what they did before and after the war, to get a rounded picture of the man. Whilst I am also 'big' in to command and control aspects of the war I do also feel a great sense of sacrifice, willing or not, was given by men and women on all sides of the conflict. To me that is the backbone of what I do. It is constantly there and can not be got away from, nor should it. However you are right that sacrifice is not always death, but can be suffering and surviving.

regards

Arm

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Peter, whilst I can take your point that the Great War was not the sum of the lives of those caught up in it, I wonder if this is the right place to complain about our focusing upon that particular aspect of their lives? After all this is a site devoted to the study of the Great War 1914-18; its purpose is not the social study of the lives of our ancestors from cradle to grave. So whilst many genealogists who use this site are indeed researching the wider lives of their ancestors, they use this particular facility to focus on the Great War period of any of the lives they are researching. Inevitably that leads to tracing many of these lives to a violent death in the trenches between 1914-18, but I hardly see that sadly inescapable fact as suggesting a 'cult of death' amongst those using this site.

Your secondary point, that not all those who fought and/or died in the Great War were heroes or even particularly nice people is one I can concur with wholeheartedly. Those who served in the Great War were no better or worse than humanity in general - and like humanity in general, some of them were absolute s**ts whilst others behaved most nobly. In between these extremes existed examples of every kind of motivation and personality. So yes, I agree with you that some generalisations which imply that service in the Great War somehow automatically confers some kind of secular sanctity are misguided.

ciao,

GAC

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I think you have a point. I guess part of the reason though is that in many cases it is easier to research someone who died than someone who lived. I have many relatives who were the right age and must have passed through the army, but as they have such common names it is virtually impossible to identify them. For those relatives who died it is much easier, therefore naturally I have devoted more time to researching them.

I think one thing that people should be wary of is giving their ancestors feelings that might have been completely alien to them. For instance I hear a lot of 'you can see the emptiness in his eyes' about photos taken during and after the war. My grandad spent three years in the trenches. I have no idea what kind of things he saw but I imagine they were pretty grim. I can't honestly say that there is any evidence it affected him at all. In all pictures I have of him he has a big stupid grin on his face, and everyone remembers him as being really nice and easygoing. Yet if there was one picture of him looking a bit glum, someone might think it was because he was thinking of the horror of the trenches, rather than because he was behind on the rent or something..

Obviously I don't mean to belittle those who suffered genuine physical or psychological trauma as a result of the war, but equally we should bear in mind the many millions who simply got on with their lives after the war with little or no ill effect.

I take your point about not looking on people as 'heroes' either. I had my relative Albert Edward Smith as my avatar for a while until my dad pointed out that he remembered him and he was a complete arsehole!

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I wouldn't disagree either, I get a bit irritated by the mawkish and the pious. Real people are so much more interesting than stereotypes anyway!

What about, what did he do the rest of the time? Grandad had a life too! He had sex. A job at home. Life after the war. He was a man. Do not think his life was a few months in the frontline trench.

There is this thread.

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Peter

You have raised very valid points, but as already stated the purpose of this forum is to discuss aspects of the Great War, and is therefore a limiting forum concerned with those who died, and survived. Its like going to a chemist and ranting to the owner that they have nothing but antibiotics and a fixation with health.

The forum, however is much greater than mere records of soldiers. Some of the threads and topics are philosophical and subjective, taking mere militarism into well constructed and highly thought out arguments regarding moral, religious, social and humanitarian soul-searching in general. Others are extremely humerous.

Go with the threads that appeal to you, and you'll find many kindred spirits.

Geraint

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I think Redorchestra mentions the major point - that you can`t do much to research non-dead. You can easily get a list of a million who died but you`d struggle to get the names of many who were wounded or unscathed. Having said that, many of the worst sufferers were among those who survived. Of course the men came in all shades of humanity. There is, however, one class of men who we can assume (unless proved otherwise) were well intentioned - the Kitchener volunteers. They were prepared to put their life on the line for the national good. That`s not to say that non-volunteers weren`t honourable - they may have had good reason for not volunteering. I must say I`ve never seen any post that looked down on a conscript for having been combed out.

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we should bear in mind the many millions who simply got on with their lives after the war with little or no ill effect.

Not sure this is right. Some just hide it better than others. Don't kid yourself that war has little or no ill-effect on people. The mates I've known who you would think had coped with it really well and are successful in business are some of the surprises who simply go away quietly one day and commit suicide. Breaks your heart.

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QUOTE (Phil_B @ May 1 2008, 08:57 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
you can`t do much to research non-dead. You can easily get a list of a million who died but you`d struggle to get the names of many who were wounded or unscathed.

I sympathize with the members who are searching the records of British soldiers. It seems that your government has done a poor job of keeping and organizing those records.

On the other hand, in Canada, our system is quite easy to work through, once you get the hang of it. Within a few hours, I could give you a list of every man and woman who signed on for the Great War. (maybe a few hours is a bit of an exageration, as there are over 600,00 names to compile, but you get the idea) You can then easily subtract the CWGC list from that, and voila, all the survivors!

By the way, each and every service file can be had for the price of about $30 Cdn. It makes our job on this side of the pond relatively easy. By the way, that is the full file, medical and pay records included, not just a medals card, which is also included.

Even the Australians are now catching up and have a system that is similar to ours. All you need are the basic facts about the person you are looking for and in 99% of the cases, he/she can be found in minutes.

I can't wait for the WW2 records to become as easily searched.

Cheers

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I sympathize with the members who are searching the records of British soldiers. It seems that your government has done a poor job of keeping and organizing those records.

More the fault of the Luftwaffe than British governments, Al.

ciao,

GAC

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Not sure this is right. Some just hide it better than others. Don't kid yourself that war has little or no ill-effect on people. The mates I've known who you would think had coped with it really well and are successful in business are some of the surprises who simply go away quietly one day and commit suicide. Breaks your heart.

As I said, in no way did I wish to belittle the suffering of those who were badly affected by the war. Of course many hundreds of thousands had their lives ruined by the war, but I think it is something of a myth to think that everyone returned from the war psychologically damaged. Considering the millions who took part, if everyone had been that badly affected the country would've probably ground to a halt..

Some of my family have been in war zones, and some of them really enjoyed it. My uncle was a Royal Marine, and he used to love getting out his photo album to show me bits of dead bodies he'd snapped. I think he would've had a good laugh if I had suggested he had been psychologically damaged by the experience.

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My uncle was a Royal Marine, and he used to love getting out his photo album to show me bits of dead bodies he'd snapped. I think he would've laughed if I had suggested he had been psychologically damaged by the experience.

Perhaps people deal with the horrors in many different ways?

regards

Arm

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My uncle was a Royal Marine, and he used to love getting out his photo album to show me bits of dead bodies he'd snapped. I think he would've had a good laugh if I had suggested he had been psychologically damaged by the experience.

There are those who'd argue that taking and keeping albums of such snaps of 'bits of dead bodies' is evidence of psychological damage.

ciao,

GAC

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Yes you are probably right, but the flip side of the argument that 'some cope better than others' is that as well as those who go off and commit suicide many managed to readjust pretty well to civilian life, excusing scaring young nephews with gruesome photo albums..

I just think people should be wary of looking at our ancestors and projecting 21st century attitudes and feelings onto them. For every soldier who cracked under the pressure or who wrote tragic war poetry, there must be many more who muddled through the war thinking about what they were going to have for breakfast instead of the horrors of war. But these people never wrote their memoirs or never caused debates in parliament, and never really talked about it, not because it was too horrific to talk about it but just because it was a small part of their lives that they didn't consider relevant or important any more. I guess someone like George Coppard is a model of the type of person who I am thinking of, although he did of course write his memoirs!

It's important to remember that as well as the war being horrific it was by all accounts pretty mundane and boring at times for the average grunt.

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More the fault of the Luftwaffe than British governments, Al.

Yes, of course, I forgot that little tid bit. Seems I have committed a bit of a faux pas. Guess I'll crawl under my desk with a good bottle of Canadian whiskey and wait until the memory of my digression has passed.

My appologies to you and your government.

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"Ordinary people in an extraordinary situation" sums it all up. For me, I don't care if my man lived or died. If the latter, research is easier, of course, and I know where his marker is.

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There is it seems a cult of the dead. The trend to regard all who fought and died as heros. A lot were. A lot were not. They were all people. Some good, some bad, some indifferent. Some hated every moment. Some loved every moment.

Sinners, saints and those inbetween the two. It does not matter on which side they fought and died on.

This applies to those who served and came home too.

I entirely agree with the above. I've done a lot of war memorial research in the past, but for me it has only emphasised how the 'cult of the dead' has taken over, and those that survived are paid very little attention. I find it particularly hard that, for instance, a new recruit to the Army of one day's duration, dying of illness or accident unrelated to his service, is commemorated by the CWGC, whereas a much decorated man dying of wounds after the cut-off date in August 1921, goes forgotten (officially) by the nation. Although I can see the logistical problems in this, it becomes increasingly problematical for me personally. Researching those who survived is not that difficult, but it does need far more leg-work and visits to local archives and libraries - it's not an online pursuit, which tends to exclude most people these days who are out for a quick fix.

I would also add to the 'cult of the dead', the 'cult of the Infantry' (or should that be 'cult of the dead Infantry'). The vast majority of men who served during the Great War were neither Infantry nor dead - I think their worth is vastly undervalued by many today.

Sue

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Guess I'll crawl under my desk with a good bottle of Canadian whiskey and wait until the memory of my digression has passed.

Canadian whiskey?!! Come now, Al - don't compound the faux pas! Don't be vague ask for....er.....Scots whisky! :lol: Whisper it, though, a Japanese malt has been voted the best this year. :o

ciao,

GAC

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Hello - I agree with Sue. In 'my' village the parish council is promoting a commemorative exhibition to acknowledge

the 90th aniversary of the armistice. The intention is to show photographs and information of the men and women

who served and survived. I have recieved great and very generous help fron pals on this forum for the part of the exhibition which is to be dedicated to men/women from as many of the combatant nations. Many tell tales of 'ordinary' people

who did their duty and then returned to a life little changed from before the war.

However trying to persuade the villagers to contribute is often met with "my great grandad was only a ---"

or "Grandad never spoke about it". There does seem at times amongst family history people some who are

a little struck by the "romance of death".

I must say that what I have learnt so far with this task is the astonishing variety of humanity and the

and the sheer just get on with it and get home.

By the way I don't care what Al drinks it dosn't stop him giving me great help.

Best wishes

Old Jack

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I think Peter is preaching to the converted here. I am sure the typical forum member is very aware of the range of humanity that served in WW1. Heros in the conventional sense were relatively few and far between, but if you extend heroism to include a dogged persistence to just endure and survive, then there were many more. As for those who hated war - this would encompass all nationalities and be an even larger group of men and women.

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QUOTE (Phil_B @ May 1 2008, 01:57 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
There is, however, one class of men who we can assume (unless proved otherwise) were well intentioned - the Kitchener volunteers. They were prepared to put their life on the line for the national good. That`s not to say that non-volunteers weren`t honourable - they may have had good reason for not volunteering. I must say I`ve never seen any post that looked down on a conscript for having been combed out.

The soldier in the frontline in August 1914,was just that. "A Soldier". Kitchener's Volunteers were all sorts. Butchers, Bakers, candlestick makers. Some Volunteered "For the National Good". Some because they wanted to join the "fun". Some because there was peer pressure, etc. I wonder how many were really prepared to put their life on the line?

Then we have the conscipt. They too had reasons not to volunteer. They too came from diverse backgrounds

Was there an optimum composition, ie Kitcheners, Conscripts, Professional Soldiers, to a Battalion, or Division?

My Grandad was a "Volunteer" . He Volunteered in December 1916.After The Somme. When asked why, he said that he wanted to survive. If you volunteered you could pick which Regiment you served with. He picked the R.F.A. and survived.

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My thoughts Exactly Peter,i do think that there are those amongst us that View the Great War as a Heroic Romantic Episode in Our History,and those of us that are more down to Earth and Realistic.No Soldier or Service man actually Chooses to actually Die for their Country,They Dont Fall,Pass Away,Lay Down their Life,Die with A Smile,they are simply there because they are there,etc,etc,.In Honest Terms these men Were Killed in a most Brutal Manner.There is Far too much Romanticism of the Great War through Poetry and Art,i am sure if the Average PBI of the Great War could be privy to some of this Tosh,their comments would be unprintable.

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"Heroes A lot were. A lot were not. They were all people. Some good, some bad, some indifferent. Some hated every moment. Some loved every moment.

Rather they try and survive the best they can.

The "What did Grandad Do in the War". What about, what did he do the rest of the time? Grandad had a life too! He had sex. A job at home. Life after the war. He was a man. Do not think his life was a few months in the frontline trench.

I feel better now."

And of course you might find all these characteristics in the same man - I can find quotes in my grandad's war diary which say, after a particularly awful day with shells dropping in the battery that he "would not have missed today for the world". Others where he says "what terrible sights today", "I wish I was back home" "what a lot of rotters in this battery - they would steal your teeth if there was money to be made", and yes, "He had sex", otherwise I would not be here and "Life after the war. He was a man." yes , he rose from farm labourer to county surveyor and county councillor, founder of a well known golf club etc.

I'm very proud of him, I wish I could live up to his standards - but the main reason I admire him was that he survived 4 years of WW1 without it apparently affecting his remaining 40 odd years - I'm damn sure I couldn't have survived 4 years years without a severe effect on me. He's a hero to me - and so are those who served and survived, and those who served and died, and those who served and were severely damaged - physically or mentally.

Remember them

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