Great War – The Countdown to Global Conflict
By Ian Welch
Haynes Publishing – £25.00
You’d think the centenary of the First World War being commemorated in all kinds of ways, might, act as something of a sobering reminder as to just how fruitless and appalling the killing fields of war actually is; but as much of the Middle East erupts unto a funeral pyre of its own reckless, hideous and relentless design, history, it would seem, has as indeed taught us very little.
One need only browse through some of the most poignant of black and white photographs found in the Great War – The Countdown to Global Conflict, to assimilate for themselves, the sheer folly of 1914-1918 alone.
By way of the book as a whole revealing ”the key factors in the outbreak of the Great War in a way that brings the era to life and reveals much that has been lost to the mists of time,” it manages to reinforce the dreaded hopelessness of what those four years were ultimately and unfortunately, all about.
This is essentially clarified by two prime aspects:
The chronology – wherein the first chapter (‘Tensions Rise as the New Century Dawns’) sheds light on the lead-up to 1914, while the title final chapter (‘The Conflict Escalates into Global Hostilities’) despairingly says it all. And the book’s Introduction, where Welch writes: ”The chain of events that led to the First World War was not immediately obvious to the average person on the street – in the days before television, rolling news or the use of radio as an entertainment and communication medium – there was only one way for people to hear about what was happening… from reading the daily papers […]. Owing to the physical constraints of this publication, the exhaustive manifesto of events that triggered the First World War cannot be examined in infinite detail and it has not been possible to reproduce every word printed in the Daily Mirror that relates to these incidents […]. On 7 August1914 the first British troops […] landed in Europe. They had been deployed in response to the German invasion of Belgium which violated the Treaty of London (1839) and forced the British to declare war on Germany. German Chancellor Theobold von Bethmann-Hollweg expressed his disbelief that the two countries would be going to war over a ”mere scrap of paper,” while many believed that the hostilities would be finished before Christmas.”
Clear, concise and relentlessly to the point, all eight chapters of this rather necessary publication are a timely, diary of events, from which we, and the powers that be, really ought to learn.
Learn that is, how to bow our heads amid reflective conciliation.
Reason being, it’s all too easy to (conveniently) forget; which, in the big scheme of things, might be a bigger a crime than the futility of said war itself.