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World War: its origins and opportunities


In Part Six of ‘World War’ the editor Sir John Hammerton (1938) makes some interesting points, written in 1938 with the Great War only twenty years before. I’ve heard others, regular Tommies from the trenches referring to 1870–71 and before to the beginning of the rivalry between France and Germany, back to the Napoleonic Wars and the Thirty Years War.

In the editorial Hammerton uses the language of war and expresses the misconceived hope, even in 1938′ that the last war will be the last, that victory is worth it or that “we produce an environment ‘safe for democracy’ or ‘homes for heroes’. Are we not still guilty of exploiting words like ‘heroes’? That it is heroic to put you life on the line? Which in turn must feed into the psyche of the next generation of fighters?

The victor writes the history, yet Hammerton tries to present the facts objectively. I wonder how the words of Hiddenberg come over in ‘My War Memories’? Does he glory in Tanneberg and blame others for the rest?

There’s a picture of a church taken as a strong point surrounded by barbed wire that makes me realise that in this war forts crumbled, literally and as a useful point if strength. The rise of barbed–wire, machine–guns and artillery is seen as the start of a short era of static war, yet this is surely akin to an older action, the seige. The war id movement, of cavalry, was transferring to the skies.

I find it remarkable that Germany made many foolish assumptions about the state of the relations between countries of the British Empire, even beleiving that should Canada enter the war it would exposen itself to conflict with the USA. WW6C12p151 Do all warmongers delude themselves about the outcome? Do they ever win? What are the lasting conquests and why did they succeed? For example the Norman conquest of England?

Hammerton makes an intersting pooint about ‘German Teutonic kultur’ compares to the ‘peaceful union of states under Great Britain, whose national existence was more likely to stay intact within the empire rather than separated from it’. A case of better the devil you know than the devil you don’t, or subjected people knowing that the time to rebel is not when hundreds if thousands of young men have been mobilised and armed?

German racism ‘The Germans complained during the war that they were faced with a motley crowd of coloured troops.’ Hammerton ed. (1938:151) As if war is a game where sides can only be selected from amongst specific ‘racially superior’ groups or classes?

We owe it to those who have gone before to preserve the great fabric of British freedom and hand it on to our children.” Sir Joseph Cook, the Australian Prime Minister.

Samalis want to fight for, not against the English.

I admire the construction of this metaphor as well as the sentiment expressed. Metaphors must have a ressonace with the audience. Was this first expressed to the people of Somaliland? Politically were those selected from the Somali people to govern likely to lose most, or everything, if they chose to rebel? In any case, given the times, to rebel would be to pick sides and I don’t suppose German colonialism had much of a reputation.

“As the monsoon winds drives the sandhills of our coast into new forms, so does the news of the German evil doing drive our hearts and spears into the service of the English Government.” The hakim of Jubaland, Governor of the Somaliland Protectorate.

A case of my master’s enemy is my enemy, better the devil you know than the devil you don’t or a human inclination to take sides in a fight and join in. (JV)

Or was their fear of internment and viscious retributions?


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