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For The Fallen
They went with songs to the battle, they were young,
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted;
They fell with their faces to the foe.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years contemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

Laurence Binyon

The Great War

The guns ceased fire at the 11th hour of the 11th day in the 11th month of 1918.

In spite of the growth of international socialism, pacifistic writing, and Hague Tribunals, expensive military establishments were being maintained, and no acceptable scheme of disarmament had been devised. The Triple Alliance had provoked the Triple Entente, and although the latter, from all indications, was as purely defensive in character as the former professed to be, Germany insisted that she was being encircled on land and deprived of the freedom of the seas; she was an open advocate of the politics of power which she had arrogantly asserted on three occasions, in 1905, 1909, and 1911; her population, though she was still able to absorb it, was increasing, and, more pressing and serious, she was manufacturing more than she could consume; she envied France and Great Britain their colonies; she was striving to control one route through the Balkans to the Persian Gulf and another across central Africa from east to west. Since 1898 she had been building up a powerful navy, and, not content with her great and highly trained army, she passed a Bill, in 1913, greatly to increase her effective force, a step which stimulated France and Russia to further efforts and also brought Belgium to introduce universal military service.

So much for Germany; but all the other countries had their fears, ambitions, and disturbing elements. France still resented the- loss of Alsace and Lorraine, though there is no indication that she would have gone to war solely for that cause, but she feared for the safety of her colonies, and she had been obliged to submit to more than one affront from her former conqueror, which kept her apprehensive and galled her pride. Great Britain had, in Germany, a serious manufacturing and commercial competitor, the increase of the German navy was a menace to the sea power on which the safety of her Empire depended, to say nothing of the pretentious threats which the Germans frequently directed against her. Italy was irritated at German aid to Turkey in the recent war with Tripoli, and she was burning to secure Italia Irredenta, districts in the Austrian Alps which menaced her safety, and stretches on the Eastern shore of the Adriatic which she desired on sentimental and commercial grounds. The real storm center, however, was in the Near East. Russia, aiming to control the outlet from the Black Sea, was resolutely championing the pan-Slavic interests against Austria, who had made a vain attempt, so early as August, 1913, to secure Italian support in an aggressive war against Serbia.

By her fateful decision of 4 August, 1914, Great Britain plunged into a world war which raged for over four and one quarter years, which involved three fourths of the population of the globe, which, first and last, called to arms upwards of 60,000,000 men, and covered a fighting area which included not only considerable portions of Europe, but parts of Asia, great stretches of Africa, and remote islands in the Pacific and Indian Oceans. Owing to the huge numbers engaged and the increased effectiveness of modern engines of war, the destructiveness of life and property has been unparalleled in the world's history. More than 7,000,000 have been killed in combat and 6,000,000 permanently maimed, besides some 14,000,000 less seriously wounded. This is exclusive of civilians massacred or starved or destroyed by air raids, to say nothing of millions victims of influenza, an epidemic which war conditions contributed greatly to spread. At a conservative estimate, the total war casualties must have mounted to far over 40,000,000.

Of the total forces called to the colors on the Allied side, the British Empire contributed 8,654,467,2 and suffered casual ties of 851,117 killed, 142,057 missing,and 2,067,442 wounded, or 3,060,616 all told. Of these the British Isles contributed 5,704,416; Canada, 640,886; Australia, 416,809; New Zealand, 220,099; South Africa, 136,070; India, 1,401,350; other colonies, 134,837. According to a careful computation the direct cost alone has mounted to the staggering figure of $186,333,- 637,097, of which three fourths has been spent for purely military purposes. The British share in this enormous total has been roughly about one fifth.The British War debt was 7,435,000,000 (about $35,000,000,000) of- which 171,000,000 had been loaned to the Dominions and 1,568,000,000 to the Allies.

Resources of the Belligerents

Although the forces of the Allies greatly outnumbered the Central Powers - except for the interval in 1917-1918 between the collapse of Russia and the entrance of the United States at any appreciable strength - Germany and her allies had many initial advantages. For one thing, she had a superiority in trained officers and men quickly available for fighting. The British had had little experience in handling large masses of men, and, while 'the French had many brilliant admirably equipped officers, their staff organization was nothing like so extensive and complete as Germany's. Russia had a huge army, which, though it moved more quickly than the Germans anticipated, was slow in getting started. Then Germany had the further advantage of operating on inside lines of communication served by strategic railroads on the western and eastern borders which, under the direction of an autocratic military caste, she had constructed in time of peace. In consequence of her central position and her superior communications and her ability to choose her point of attack, she was able to overrun Belgium, northern France, Serbia and Rumania, though, in the first instance, she profited also from a shameless violation of her pledge of neutrality.

Fear of destruction of beautiful cities hastened the surrender of her opponents in many cases, while the same fear handicapped the Allies in driving her out of places she had once occupied. Modern warfare is a highly specialized industry in which equipment counts for much. Here Germany had another advantage, due to years of preparation and patient ingenious application. In rifles, in machine guns, and heavy artillery her initial superiority was immense; furthermore, she had huge stores of high explosive shells, and, for a long time, was firing ammunition made before the war. The Allies at once started to supplement the output of their own inadequate plants by purchases from neutral countries like the United States - though they steadily speeded up their own production with marvelous rapidity. All these factors - together with unity of command in the face of divided counsels and carefully worked out plans in which a remarkably elaborate spy system played a leading part - combined for over three years to counteract the unquestioned superiority of the Allies in numbers and wealth, as well as in command of the seas and the consciousness of the justice of their cause.

Innovations in Warfare

The employment of guns of heavier caliber and longer-range guns made the older type of fortress practically useless, and demonstrated the superiority of trenches adequately manned with troops and guarded with mazes of barbed wire entanglement, though even barbed wire failed to withstand the persistent bombardment from high explosive shells and had to be supplemented by shell craters and concrete machine-gun nests, known as pill boxes. Poison gas - condemned by the Hague Convention of 1899 - was first used by the Germans at the second battle of Ypres in April, 1915, and more and more frightful types came to be employed by both sides, chiefly in shells. Zeppelins and airships were first employed in warfare, though the former proved far from successful. Legitimate and effective use was made of these new fighting weapons in scouting and destroying railways and munition plants, also as one of the many means of combating the submarine.

On the other hand, they were illegally and inexcusably employed for the bombing of defenseless towns and hospitals, though it has been alleged that the Allies occasionally made use of hospital walls for sheltering ammunition trains. The employment by the Germans of such dreadful methods as poison gas and the raiding of open towns recoiled on their own heads and provoked furious reprisals. Up to March, 1918, the enemy air raids on Great Britain resulted in 4568 casualties, including the slaughter of 342 women, and 757 children killed or injured. Throughout 1914 the British dropped practically no bombs in Germany. Gradually reprisals began, and in June, 1917, British aviators dropped 65 tons of bombs on German towns, and in May, 1918, 668 were dropped in a single day.

Moreover, the air raids over England, though they kept some airplanes at home and destroyed a few munition plants, had - like naval raids on undefended towns - the unwelcome consequence that they aroused the British from their insular security and stimulated recruiting. Righteous indignation rather than fear was the general reaction against the German policy of frightfulness. The burning of the university and library of Louvain, 26 August, 1914, for alleged attacks of civilians on invading troops, the execution of Edith Cavell, 13 October, 1915, for assisting wounded English and Belgians to escape to Holland, and the shooting of Captain Fryatt, 27 July, 1916, for defending himself against a German submarine are among the outrages which symbolize enduringly the German methods.

Submarines were adopted some years before the War, though the Germans did not see fit to take them up until 1006, long after the British. A perfectly legitimate weapon against ships of war, it was cruelly and illegally employed against unarmed passenger ships. The tank, which made its appearance in the Somme campaign of 1916, was a British invention developed from an American farm tractor with caterpillar wheels - a movable fortress capable of pushing steadily forward over all sorts of obstacles.


By August 1920, the danger of a new European war became more imminent hourly. It is interesting to note that in the second year of the Versailles "peace," not less than ten wars were raging in various parts of Europe and the Near and Far East. Altogether 4,000,000 soldiers were engaged in these wars. This is as many as were engaged at one time in the great European conflict.

  1. Jugo Slavia - One hundred thousand Italians and 90,000 Jugo-Slavs had locked horns.
  2. Albania - Fifty thousand Italians are opposed by a citizens army.
  3. Poland - Three hundred thousand Poles were at death grips with 600,000 Russian Bolshevik troops in a war which may involve the whole of Europe.
  4. Caucasus - Two hundred and fifty thousand Russians, 150,000 Turks, 120,000 Greeks, 80,000 British and 60,000 French troops were fighting in various parts of that far-flung area.
  5. Syria - Forty-five thousand French were battling with Syrians.
  6. China - The country was torn by rebellion marked by heavy fighting.
  7. In lower Mesopotamia, native revolts occured against the British; a holy war was preached in the Muntefik area between the Tigris and Euphrates.

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Page last modified: 09-02-2019 18:41:24 ZULU