War of words

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Our leading historian of the First World War, Oxford’s Hew Strachan, rightly notes that the coalition’s plans to commemorate its centenary next year are “conceptually empty”.

They certainly appear at this stage to rival James Garner’s Politically Correct Bedtime Stories in their avoidance of pejorative terms describing any feature of German life.

Yet I trust we shall be spared a further historic apology from the Prime Minister for, while the Kaiser was not entirely responsible for the war, he was hardly blameless.

The problem is that for my generation, our notions of the conflict are rooted in the pages of AJP Taylor’s revisionist history and the derision of Oh What a Lovely War.

And sadly the doubters had all the best poets, as well as Blackadder Goes Forth, which is infinitely more memorable than any televised documentary from the usual suspects.

So most think of it as a muddy, bloody mess caused by idiot politicians, led by asinine generals and ending in a “peace to end peace”, as well as a monstrous flu pandemic.

The latter started in Austria in early 1917, hit the Central Powers earlier and harder than the Allies, tipped the balance of power and was arguably responsible for final victory.

(Dr) John Cameron

Howard Place

St Andrews