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Wednesday 4 August 2010

August 4th 1914

On a rather chilly August evening in 2010, it's hard to imagine the euphoria that resounded on the walls of Buckingham Palace ninety-six years ago tonight. Crowds cheering and singing the National Anthem as though they had just been liberated from some terrible oppression. Three days earlier, the same frenzied elation rang out, too, through Germany and Russia and France....and this for the declaration of the 'war to end wars' - the great crime and catastrophe that would lead to the downfall of dynasties, the massacres of millions, the overthrow of kings and the murder of a Tsar.

That bizarre euphoria always gives me the impression of the relief that comes at the onset of a fever after days of feeling vaguely ill. It reminds me, too, of Friday nights many years ago, walking past a local pub and seeing young boys spoiling for fight. Once, while I was passing a typical brawl, a young lad on the end of a push fell at my feet. He stood up shaking his fist in anger and swearing that he was going to kill the *******. When I asked why, he looked completely befuddled and shaking his knuckles showed me a slight scratch, "Because...because....look what he did!"
"It's a small scratch." I replied and he looked even more confused.
The next day I saw him and his 'attacker' pushing trolleys together in the local supermarket. A lot of sound and fury about nothing.

The tragedy of the First World War is that it was for absolutely nothing.

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