BBC HomeExplore the BBC
This page has been archived and is no longer updated. Find out more about page archiving.

13 November 2014

BBC Homepage


Contact Us

World War 1

You are in: Hereford and Worcester > World War 1 > What was duty?

Poppy

Poppy

What was duty?

Lilly, from the Chase High School in Malvern, asks some hard questions about the meaning of duty.

Everyday I would write a reflection using a quote I found in a book about WW1 (a Testament of Youth- Vera Brittain) or a quote I found on a grave, and that would inspire me to write about the contrast of the quote to what really happened:

World War One memorial at Notre Dame de Lorette

Memorial at Notre Dame de Lorette

"I slept and dreamt that life was beauty, I woke and found that life was duty."

I found how true this quote was when it came to today- experiencing a miniscule idea of trench life and warfare, and how hard it must have been. All that work and effort put in to achieve that dream of beauty, but causing so much destruction on the 'way' – land damaged, lives stolen…
Seeing the sheer number of graves in Notre Dame de Lorette brought it home how easy and long my life will be, unlike those many men taken by an enemy with a shared aim; because in the end they were both fighting for peace and beauty.
So many people died, and no one can put into perspective how many graves there were -  pure numbers cannot describe. Neither can visions nor experience. Nobody will ever be able to put into perspective the damage caused for that 'peaceful' end.

Newfoundland memorial on the Somme battlefield

Newfoundland memorial on the Somme

"Death is swallowed up in victory."

Is this quote true? Is it possible not to care about death if we won? But care if we lose? If we lose it's because we lost so many men, if we win in the long run we lost few. Can that aim of peace only come from men taken to peace forever? Must people die for peace? Surely that contradicts the aim of peace?
The mighty massacre, all for something that we already had. We were fighting for something that was unnecessary and there was no point to it - nothing is worth the amount of lives lost. Lost generations were formed in this war. Areas such as Newfoundland had suffered. Brothers, sons and husbands, all these people lost for what? I ask you, is death really swallowed up in victory? Or does victory mean nothing compared to the generation of men we lost?

Lilly Lowe

Lilly Lowe

"Duty called, he obeyed"

Duty - What was this man’s duty? What were all these men's duties? Was it to die? Was it to kill the enemy? Or was it to get peace? No one will ever know. These men probably didn't know what their duty was; some didn't even know their left from right.
Did they think that they where fighting for peace? Or because they felt it was the right thing to do? Were they fighting because they were told to fight? Or because they chose to fight? Who will ever know? Killing is not a duty, fighting isn't a duty, Dying is not a duty. Killing is not an honest day's work; fighting isn't an honest day's work; Dying is not an honest day's work. The soldiers do not come home to their wife and children calling "Honey I'm home, man; that was a tough day at work. I killed five Germans and the bloke next to me got hit by a shell."
No, that is not what happened. Maybe this man did obey to his duty - but he sure as hell didn't know what his duty really was.

If you have an interesting story about World War 1, involving a member of your family, we'd love to hear it.

Disclaimer

Sending a story does not guarantee publication.  BBC Hereford and Worcester cannot pay for contributions, and reserves the right to edit an submissions.

last updated: 16/10/2008 at 09:58
created: 11/09/2008

You are in: Hereford and Worcester > World War 1 > What was duty?



About the BBC | Help | Terms of Use | Privacy & Cookies Policy