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The Great War

August 2, 2014

I have a family interest in the Great War, so cannot pass this 100th anniversary of its start without reflecting on the conflict.

My grandfather Joe Bainbridge fought in the trenches and survived. My great uncle Harry Howl Jeffs was killed just a fortnight before the Armistice.

I am of that generation that grew up knowing veterans of the First World War very well. Not that many would talk of it.

I remember those old gentlemen well. I remember the scars, not all of them visible, that many came home with.

I remember one gent with the most vivid blue scars on his arm. I saw him once – in the 1960s – walking down a street. He didn’t see me. But I watched him as a car backfired. Within an instant he had thrown himself on the ground – all those years later.

I visited the Western Front as a boy. It has haunted me since. One day I would like to go back.

It was, of course, supposed to be the “War to End Wars”.

If only!

Not twenty-two years later my father and uncle had to go off to do it all again.

And would the veterans of the trenches be very thrilled to see again the social injustice being inflicted on their descendants; the food banks, the poor pay for hard workers, the benefit sanctions and people dying because they can’t get medical care?

Perhaps those soldiers of the trenches might ask themselves why they bothered?

And even today people are killing each other in war, and the private firms that own our governments are making vast profits from arms trading.

How little the world has moved on.

Every soldier who died in the trenches has been betrayed.

So this is a good time to reflect.

Because I think the time has long come when Joe Public should refuse to fight and die to bail mediocre and grasping politicians out of a hole.

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