First casualties

I CONGRATULATE Alan Hinnrichs on his intelligent ass­essment of the Great War (Letters, 6 January). He writes: “It was a bloody slaughter fought because of the greed and stupidity of European imperial powers.”

For people a century later who are perhaps anticipating the international excitement and sportsmanship of this year’s Fifa World Cup and Commonwealth Games, let me say it wouldn’t have been possible in 1914.

Then, most of the world and, indeed, modern Europe were under the yokes of London, St Petersburg, Paris, Vienna and, to a lesser degree, upstart Berlin. Imperialist Madrid and Lisbon, of course, remained neutral.

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Today, I suspect only the bombastic Great British and their misty-eyed Harry Lauder-type Scottish comrades would want to “celebrate” the centenary of such senseless carnage.

I, for one, can’t forget the facts that Queen Victoria’s grandson was Kaiser Wilhelm II, co-instigator with Kaiser Franz Josef of Austria, of the Great War. And that the Dutch royal family granted him asylum in 1918.

Douglas Bain

Oxgangs Drive


WHETHER one agrees or not as to the cause(s) of the First World War, and I come down entirely on the flawed character (unlike his liberal parents who died tragically early) of Queen Victoria’s grandson Kaiser Wilhelm and his literally warlike high command, both no doubt “spurred on by priest and politician”, we should be able to agree on its worst direct consequences which are not covered by your recent letters or editorial and only in passing by Allan Massie (Perspective, 8 January).

Even more so than the war’s own dreadful slaughter, those direct results – the prime examples we have of the law of unintended consequences – were the Bolshevik coup d’etat (deliberately engineered by Germany, enabling Lenin’s sealed train to cross Europe from
Zurich) spawning his dictatorship and the totalitarian savagery of Stalin, Mao, Kim et al, and the destruction of the Ottoman Empire causing the recent agonies of the Middle East, both of which will probably take the 21st century to rectify.

The Second World War may have been partly a consequence of Versailles, but it was not a 
direct result of the First World War itself.

John Birkett

Horseleys Park

St Andrews, Fife