Posts Tagged ‘History’

I don’t wear a poppy on Remembrance Sunday

November 10, 2013


A year ago, I accompanied my late father in commemorating Remembrance Sunday. He served for six years in the Second World War, including in the jungles of Burma.

Remembrance Sunday was created to remember the dreadful slaughter of young men in the First World War. I first joined in as a child, and this memory remains as touching as ever. We regretted war. We did not celebrate it.

My father always told me “no more war.” I think he had a right to be listened to.

I have respect and sympathy for soldiers who continue to die in wars. But I do regret that Britain continues to fight war after war, for purposes which are not entirely clear.

Remembrance Sunday has been turned into a celebration of today’s warfaring. My father was right, and this is wrong.

For that reason I do not wear a poppy.


October 28, 2013

On Monday morning, 25 September 1915, 10,000 British soldiers at Loos set out to attack German lines. At 100 metres, German machine guns opened up and they fell “like wheat before scythes.” 8,000 were killed, wounded or missing.

When the stragglers turned back at the wire in front of the German trenches, the German soldiers refused their officers’ commands to shoot them in the back “out of sympathy, consternation and disgust.”

The present British Prime Minister, whose name I don’t remember, has called on his fellow-countrymen to celebrate the British spirit of 1914 in the same way as they did the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee last year.

We need a German historian, Adam Schild, to remind us what we who are a little older than the callow youth heading the government have long known – that World War One was above all a senseless sacrifice of young lives – hopelessly wrong strategies and enormous cruelty by generals towards their own men – on all sides.

It’s in German, but just know it’s out there … Der Grosse Krieg – the Great War – by Adam Schild. Review

Last chance to acquire 100 years of history for less than one penny per year

January 15, 2013

A Foot In Both Camps

Today 15th January 2013 is your last chance to experience 100 years of thrilling history, told through people who went through it, for less than one penny per year if you buy A FOOT IN BOTH CAMPS: A GERMAN PAST FOR BETTER AND FOR WORSE as an ebook.

Special Offer: 99p, $1.99, €1.99. Ends at midnight tonight.

Timothy Corsellis – a war poet’s struggle with conscience

December 20, 2011

On 11th December, BBC TV showed original manuscripts of war poet Timothy Corsellis, killed in 1941 at the age of 20, and an art expert estimated their value. Timothy was an airman trained for the Royal Air Force at the time of its crucial need. His plane crashed. Another young life was cut short tragically in the service of his country.

But there’s more to it than that. Timothy Corsellis had decided he was a conscientious objector before the war broke out, so volunteering to fight as a pilot implied challenging his innermost beliefs.

After being assigned to train as a bomber pilot, Timothy asked to be switched to fighter training as he could not countenance indiscriminate pattern-bombing of civilians. Flying fighters would scarcely have put him at any less risk, and he would have still served his country in the front line at the height of the battle.

In response, the RAF gave him an “honourable discharge” and he was set to the lowly civilian task of ferrying military aircraft from one place to another. On one of these flights, his plane stalled and he dived into the ground.

On television, his role as a war hero was presented simplistically. I find him even more admirable knowing that he had to conquer his conscience first, endure rejection by his own side, and then give up his life for his country all the same.

A year before he died, at the height of the Battle of Britain, Timothy Corsellis wrote:

The faces at the window
Smiled back ‘goodbye’
Blood coursing in my breast
Told me it was the last time.
‘Good-bye’ they spoke, and I
“Never again or God knows when”
Death, a word of empty meaning
Comes to pluck me from a great and happy past
Into a vapid future
For life in this twentieth century knows no present
Life moves too fast.

The expert valued the manuscripts at £8,000, but no publisher has ever brought his poems out, even though they are well known in literary circles. It is time for a change of heart. They are part of our cultural heritage, forged at a dramatic moment in history.

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