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Bloody battles are no cause for celebration.


"PASSCHENDAELE was indeed one of the greatest disasters of the war No soldier of any intelligence now defends this senseless campaign."

These words were written not by a pacifist agitator but by the man who was prime minister when the senseless battle was fought, slaughtering almost 600,000 young men.

David Lloyd George made the admission in his war memoirs, in which he was critical of General Douglas Haig, the commander who presided over industrialised carnage to win a few miles of mud.

However, it is politicians, not generals, who send soldiers into battle, so Lloyd George bears responsibility too, despite his horror in hindsight.

We would do well to remember his words today, 100 years after the event. There's been in recent years an attempt to rewrite the history of World War I, to try to mix it up with World War II, which defeated fascism.

World War I had no such moral justification. It was a crime perpetrated by Europe's power players. The victims of that crime lie strewn in the fields of Flanders and France.

should remember The coverage of Passchendaele's centenary this week was dignified and moving. When another prime minister, David Cameron, announced men we should also angry on behalf plans to mark the centenary of the Great War, he foolishly compared it to a celebration such as the London Olympics of 2012.

As I've argued before in this column, there is a huge difference between sombre commemoration of fallen soldiers and the glorification of war.

We can pay tribute to the dead of Passchendaele but condemn World War I as an act of futile brutality.

Yes, these young men made an enormous sacrifice. Yes, they were brave and some were heroic. But many were also terrified.

By 1917, they were conscripted boy soldiers who were sent to certain death in wave after futile wave as Haig fought his battle of attrition. We should commemorate them but we should also be angry on their behalf.

There were warnings. On July 30, 1917, a call to end the war was made in the House of Commons by MP Hastings Lees-Smith. He was quoting from a letter written by a soldier decorated for his bravery - the poet Siegfried Sassoon.

The letter was addressed to his commanding officer and written while Sassoon was recovering from gunshot wounds sustained in battle.

He had fought at the Somme and won the Military Cross for rescuing a wounded comrade while under heavy German fire. As a war hero, his words could not be dismissed lightly.

He wrote: "I am making this statement as an act of wilful defiance of military authority because I believe that the war is being deliberately prolonged by those who have the power to end it.

"I am a soldier, convinced that I am acting on behalf of soldiers. I believe that the war upon which I entered as a war of defence and liberation has now become a war of aggression and conquest."

Sassoon's warning was ignored.

The War Office said he had lost his reason through shell shock.

They sent him to recuperate at Craiglockhart in Edinburgh, where he met and inspired the younger war poet Wilfred Owen.

Sassoon's protest, on the eve of Passchendaele, failed to halt the slaughter. Unlike Owen, he survived, but never forgave.

BBC Radio 4 this week broadcast a reading of his 1920 poem Memorial Tablet. It is worth reprinting in full. It summarises the essence of what the war was really all about.

SQUIRE nagged and bullied till I went to fight, (under Lord Derby's Scheme). I died in hell - (They called it Passchendaele). My wound was slight, and I was hobbling back; and then a shell Burst slick upon the duck-boards: so I fell into the bottomless mud, and lost the light.

At sermon-time, while Squire is in his pew, he gives my gilded name a thoughtful stare: For, though low down upon the list, I'm there; 'In proud and glorious memory' that's my due.

Two bleeding years I fought in France, for Squire: I suffered anguish that he's never guessed.

Once I came home on leave: and then went west What greater glory could a man desire? TOMORROW DON'T MISS SHARI LOW'S COLUMN

We should remember these young men but we should also be angry on their behalf


MUDDY HELL A wounded soldier is carried by stretcher bearers at Passchendaele
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Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Aug 2, 2017
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