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WWI - 90 Years On


Troops in the trench'The Glorious Dead'
It has been 90 years since Britain went to war with Germany. We've been speaking with some of the surviving veterans, as well as examining the broader impact of the conflict.

German troops

German troops advance.

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US troops go over the top

US troops go over the top.
Allied troops

Allied troops

Did The Intelligentsia See The War Coming?
(Friday, August 6, 0830).

"There were certainly some intellecutals who thought that the long Victorian century had produced a permanent state of progress, so that you would always be able to resolve issues by compromise and debate, but a lot of the discourse before 1914 actually suggested that war was in some sense an inevitable or natural part of the human condition."
- Professor Richard Overy, historian, King's College London.

"I don't think there was ever a time when one could assume intellectuals were pacifists ... they were not patriotic in the sense that countries expected them to be blindly and deafly patriotic and that still holds true."
- Yasmin Alibhai Brown, columnist and intellectual.

The German Perspective:
(Thursday, August 5, 0744).

"Let me go mother,
Let me go,
Let me kiss you my last goodbye,
Germany must live on,
Even if we must die."
- a German war poem.

Is The 'War On Terror' WWIII?
(Wednesday, August 4, 0850).

"The phrase that we've got at the moment, 'the Global War on Terror', is I think perhaps a pernicious one in many ways, but it's true in the sense that the conflicts we're dealing with at the moment, terrorism if you like, is cross boundary. But of course it's very different from the sort of conflict we've talked about ... because it's not nation states."
- History Professor Linda Colley, Princeton University.

"It's interesting that President Bush has made in a way a direct connection with the First World War because the rhetoric that he uses in the 'war on terror' is the rhetoric of Woodrow Wilson, 'this is a war for democracy, a war for international law'. These are exactly the phrases that were used to explain why the First World War was not a futile war ... but actually had purpose and meaning."
- Professor Hew Strachan, Oxford University.

Veterans' Remembrances:
(Wednesday, August 4, 0720).

"You've gone over the top, you're buried in muck and when they dig you out you've got another face looking at you. And that face (hasn't) got a body, the rest has been blown away. You might have someone's leg around your neck or something like that. If that isn't awful, what (is)? No one would know what it was actually like until they were there. Your imagination won’t go that far. It's best forgotten. It was awful. That's what it was.
- John Oborne, 104.

"Nobody who's been to war wants war again. They didn't want war any more than we wanted war. The only good thing I got about the war (was) I met my wife and we had 52 years of marriage, the one and only girl in my life. I met her while I was in the service. I'd never spoken to a girl before, I was quite a novice."
- Henry Allingham, 108.

"I took it hard I think, especially when I'd known what really happened to some of my friends (that were killed), drowned at sea."
- William "Bill" Stone, 103.

Piecing Together The Past:
(Tuesday, August 3, 0820).

"I think most soldiers were (realistic about what they were heading into). People began to realise within weeks that we were in for a very hard war. Obviously if you go through war, you have many of your hopes and your dreams shattered, but equally one compensates as the war goes on, you learn things about camaraderie, friendship, loss, grief. But these were hard men, they were not men of today ... we've slightly lost touch with what was reality before the war."
- Max Arthur, author of a book based on interviews and recordings of WW1 soldiers and airmen.

"He joined up at the outbreak of war with his colleagues who worked on the railway with him at Glasgow and their duty seemed clear - to go, join up and to follow Kitchener's demand 'Your Country Needs You'. So he went."
- Margaret Cameron, niece of John Jackson whose memoir of WW1 has just been published.

The Birth Of British Intelligence:
(Monday, August 2, 0845).

"It began right at the beginning in 1909 (when the Secret Service Bureau was created), MI6 as it was then gathered intelligence on this alleged plot about a German invasion, most of it was taken from what was known as scallywags ... that specific intelligence was completely wrong. Underneath it of course it was true that the Germans were a major threat, but they weren't going to invade Britain, they were going to invade France.
- Stephen Dorril, author of 'MI6 - 50 Years of Special Operations'.

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