Futile, bloody battles that rank among 'greatest disasters of the war' are no cause for celebration

2013-03-27_daily_record_thumbnail.jpg“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.

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.

The coverage of Passchendale’s centenary yesterday was dignified and moving. When another Prime Minister, David Cameron, announced plans to mark the centenary of the Great War, he foolishly compared it to a celebration such as the London Olympics of 2012.

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

We can pay tribute to the dead of Passchendale, as the Third Battle of Ypres is known, but condemn the First World War as an act of futile brutality. It not only scarred the generation who lived through it, but several generations afterwards who bore the loss of lives unlived, children unborn, talents unrealised.

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 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.

Read the rest of my column here.


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