Having just watched Jeremy Paxman’s First World War programme, which was factual in the context of how the civilian population was affected and the British Government was totally unprepared for the conflict, I would suggest that we are no further forward today.
My great uncle signed up at 15 years old in 1914 and was home in 1915 with an arm blown off. He joined up with his pals because they were subsisting on porridge, working on farms, and thought it would be an adventure. His, very rare, description of the trenches was more critical than the recently criticised Blackadder programmes and he couldn’t find many humorous references in his views of the “organisation” of the war.
To his credit, he worked with one arm on farms until he retired and considered himself lucky, as many of his friends and compatriates found themselves destitute and unable to go back and work on the crofts, holdings and farms that were promised to them.
My uncle signed up for the war from the farm for exactly the same reason as my great uncle, and his description of the disastrous retreat to Dunkirk was equally critical and laced with black humour.
I have since heard similar and worse from soldiers who went to Korea, Kenya, Northern Ireland, the Falklands, Kuwait, Iraq and Afghanistan.
I would be grateful if an “honest” politician could provide a balance sheet to show me a financial gain in all of this history, which, when all the deaths and injuries are factored in, will ensure that, in today’s context, the UK will receive cheap oil from our Middle East and American allies. No takers then?