The Century Aflame

Revisting The Great War

By Mike Miley

The guns long silenced, the chatter of machine gun fire, the sharp crack of a rifle shot, the high pitched scream of a “Wizzbang,” the thundering of “Jack Johnson’s,” have all faded to the memory of a memory since none whom have witnessed the madness and horror are alive today.

Yet the shade of the Great War has lingered about us, from the farmers’ fields of Flanders and north-west France whom still a century on pull ton upon ton of unexploded ordinance every spring in “the iron harvest,” to ISIS and the fear of terrorism that stalk the modern world.

The world we live in today, the one we have grown up in, the one our parents grew up in, the one our grandparents grew up in is a world born in blood, death and horror of a generation. A grand sacrifice of the world of the 19th century so that the 20th maybe born.

Tens of millions would be killed by the war. An exact number may never, possibly ever, be known. From bad record keeping to under counting, it is almost impossible to get numbers that agree.

Not just the men stuck in miserable muddy trenches, or huddled on the rocky shores of Anatolia, or the burning deserts of the Iraq and the Levant, to many more places beyond, but civilians as well would be targeted for the first time in warfare since the Early Modern period (between 1500 and 1800 ad).

Belgians would be massacred by Germans to try and stamp out any thought of resistance. The British would execute French farmers for being suspected as German spies with no evidence. Madness would reign; Moloch would be fed.

In August of 1914, as the war broke out, Ernest Shackleton set out on an expedition to Antarctica; en route he met with disaster. He was forced to abandon his ship stuck in ice. He would have to leave his men to go and seek out civilization in a rowboat to get his men rescued.

He would come across a Whaling village, where for the first time in 2 years would ask of news from the outside war. He reportedly asked who had won the war, assuming it was over. “Won, the war still rages, millions are dead.

Europe has succumbed to madness,” was supposedly the answer he received, and Shackleton was stunned into silence. It was unprecedented horror, which without we would not have the world we have today.

Yet World War One, The Great War is not often recalled in our media, maybe because unlike it’s more well received and photogenic “sequel,” The Great War is not a titanic struggle between good and evil, where one side is unquestionably evil.

No, The Great War doesn’t have any villains besides the War itself. It was a conflict where each side was reprehensible, where the soldiers on opposite sides felt more camaraderie with each other than their own officers.

It was the War itself that was viewed as the villain, one that would go on and on until the whole world would be consumed, till every man, woman and child had been chewed up by it.

And now on the centennial of the start of this war, we should remember how this war continues to impact our lives. So the point of this little series of articles on the war will be to cover how it changed nations, the arts and the economy to come.


Categories: Opinion

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