The War to End All Wars; IT Is 100 Years since People of All Ages and Backgrounds from the North East Proudly Signed Up to Fight for Their King and Country. Academics, Authors and Journalists from the Region Describe How the Horrors That Followed Changed All Aspects of British Society Forever

The Journal (Newcastle, England), August 29, 2014 | Go to article overview

The War to End All Wars; IT Is 100 Years since People of All Ages and Backgrounds from the North East Proudly Signed Up to Fight for Their King and Country. Academics, Authors and Journalists from the Region Describe How the Horrors That Followed Changed All Aspects of British Society Forever


IN 1914, the enthusiasm to fight for Britain was like nothing that had been seen before - or since. Huge numbers signed up, many thinking their duty would be over by Christmas that year.

But numbers that could never have been imagined died - and the lives of those that survived were changed forever.

The Great War, as it was known, still has an impact to this day.

Each November we have a minute's silence to mark the day First World War hostilities ended, while memorials to the battles dominate towns and cities across the UK.

Educating our children about the effects of this War is still seen as a key part of the national curriculum, with thousands of North East pupils still visiting the battlefields, statues and graveyards on an annual basis.

The British Army took only volunteers in 1914. It is often believed propaganda played a key part in whipping up the enthusiasm for "the fight".

The now infamous poster of Lord Kitchener with the "Join Your Country's Army" message is often seen as a key moment in persuading many would-be soldiers to sign up.

However, war journalist and Wearsider Kate Adie believes this is often taken out of context.

She said: "People certainly did not join the Army purely based on propaganda.

"It is an absolute nonsense that is perceived these days without any understanding of the feelings of patriotism at the time, of the Empire and of national pride and duty.

"It is nonsense to think it was just propaganda. Propaganda was by no means fully fledged as a tool for war until around 1916 and came from America.

"That's where the roots of propaganda and its use as a PR tool began. "There is no doubt there was encouragement to join because it was an urgent war - but it's not propaganda, it's more a cheap 21st Century shot which a lot of people use and look at through the 1914 war.

"In 1914 vast numbers thought it was their duty to defend their country." When the war first began it was believed it would be short, finished by Christmas.

How wrong they were. 8.7 million people worldwide served and 956,703 members of the British Army alone died during the conflict.

The war became a game changer; the use of battleships, aeroplanes and weapons on this scale had never been seen before. It cannot even be remotely compared to the Boer War which had only taken place 12 years previously.

Dr Angela Smith, reader in Language and Culture, University of Sunderland said: "It was the first war of the mass industrialised era."

Kate Adie added: "The First World War was something the world had never seen before.

"By 1918/19 there was very defi-nitely a sense that this was something which the entire nation had been involved in and hundreds and thousands of lives were lost.

"Millions of lives were affected in a way that had not been in living memory before, and therefore it had to be marked in some way."

Oscar winning producer David Parfitt, also an Honorary Doctorate of Arts at Sunderland University, niversity, produced The Wiper's Times last year for the BBC.

The story tells of a group of soldiers who worked on a newspaper based in the trenches during the First World War.

He said: "The legacy of the First World War has to be about the development of modern warfare, the principles before the War dated back to Napoleonic times."

Back home, things changed too.

The North East coastline was one of many areas badly affected by enemy bombing campaigns. The region was attacked by planes dropping bombs on homes and areas along the coastline - another new element of this war.

Dr Smith explains: "The home front was a battleground.

"You had the bombardment of the east coast; Zeppelins flying over Sunderland, the bombardment of Hartlepool and Scarborough and airships flying over London. …

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