Origins of WW1

There is some doubt as to the origin of the quote, “History is written by the victors”, and though it is often attributed to Winston Churchill there is no hard evidence that it originated with him.

If we can’t establish this beyond doubt, what chance do we have of agreeing the origins of the Great War when so many combinations of factors and plausible explanations exist?

One thing I do know for sure is that this subject is open to interpretation and as we are to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the beginning of the slaughter it seems obvious that in the UK government’s eyes Great Britain were the “goodies” while Kaiser Bill’s lot were the “baddies”.

I have a simplistic view of this based on an extended-family member, Private James Farrell of the 16th & 17th Lancers, who served in campaigns against the natives on the North-west Frontier, then Afrikaners in the Second Boer War, then the Germans on the fields of Flanders.

I can’t believe that the government that employed him in imperialistic, self-serving adventures in India and Africa suddenly developed altruistic and principled motives for the Great War.

Therefore, without having studied the matter in detail I reckon that the Great War was simply a contest between three royal relatives to see whose armies could triumph to allow them to dominate the world, and grab the riches of whatever country took their fancy.

Stand by for incoming!

Tom Minogue

Victoria Terrace

Dunfermline

Alastair Harper (Letters, 7 January) says I don’t understand that the First World War was “justifiable” in order to stop the Germans from overrunning Europe.

What he seems to fail to grasp is that just because rulers declare a reason for going to war it does not make it so. Tony Blair to this day will insist that the Iraq war was about weapons of mass destruction yet even a cursory look at the evidence shows this not to be the case. Education Secretary Michael Gove was trying to declare the Great War a patriotic endeavour exculpating the ruling class of Britain from any responsibility.

He tried to lay the blame for this at the door of “left-wing” academics yet he failed to mention that the notion of Field Marshal Haig as an incompetent butcher comes mostly from the work of Tory historian Kenneth Clark.

Lloyd George said in 1917 to CP Scott: “If people really knew, the war would be stopped tomorrow. But of course they don’t know, and can’t know.”

That cover-up of what happened during the Great War is still going on today. The British government still holds back some files on the Etaples mutiny. Former intelligence officer and historian Patrick Beesly found evidence that Winston Churchill had participated in a plot to have the Lusitania sunk to get the Americans to enter the war. The government is still holding back some of the files relating to the sinking until this day. One does not have to be a heavyweight academic in order to know the horrors of the First World War.

The poetry of Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen, Erich Remarque’s novel All Quiet on the Western Front and the eye-witness testimonies of the ordinary solider convey the horrors of the war better than propagandists masquerading as academics ever could.

Alan Hinnrichs

Gillespie Terrace

Dundee