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Dulce et decorum

Posted on October 12, 2012 by

We mark the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, not the day it opened.

Imagine if it were otherwise. Imagine if someone were to propose commemorating the dead of the Holocaust on the 14th of June rather than the 27th of January, because it was a pleasant summer morning rather than a bitterly cold winter one when the first transport of prisoners was marched through the infamous “Arbeit Macht Frei” gates.

There would be revulsion, disbelief and horror at such a sick notion, and rightly so.

World War 1 killed ten times as many people as died in Auschwitz, and almost three times as many as were murdered in the entire Nazi extermination programme. For the past 94 years humanity has marked their deaths on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, because that moment in 1918 was when the guns of the Western Front finally fell silent. Yet a little under two years from now, that solemn tradition will be cast aside in favour of a lavish series of public events to be held not on the day the senseless slaughter ended, but on the day it began.

It’s hard to come up with a plausible or convincing reason why.

Because there’s no conceivable justification or precedent in British (European?) history for celebrating the start of a war. And while various apologists are already angrily pointing out that “celebration” and “commemoration” aren’t synonyms, the Prime Minister has made the reality of his intent absolutely clear by comparing the plans to the Diamond Jubilee festivities of this summer. Readers can correct us if we’re wrong, but we can’t bring to mind a single prior occasion when the beginning of a terrible conflict rather than its end has been observed in such a manner.

There’s already a hoopla every time a “significant” anniversary of the Armistice comes around, whether it be 40 years or 50 or 60 or 75. Yet in none of those years have we also chosen to sanctify the day mankind made its biggest, stupidest and bloodiest ever mistake. (We find ourselves wondering if this idiotic notion has only come to pass now that not a single survivor of the trenches still lives to offer their view on it.)

So what’s different about the 96th? What possible purpose will be served in 2014 by marking August 4th that wouldn’t be just as well – or much better – achieved on the 11th of November? Why, after all this time, is there suddenly an apparent need to specifically memorialise the greatest act of collective idiocy ever perpetrated by our species rather than the day we came (albeit temporarily) to our senses?

Any detective would immediately start their investigation by seeing if anything of significance was due to occur between those two dates, and in particular anything which might be affected by a massive outpouring of national sentimentality. There is, of course, only one candidate.

The Herald notes today that the mortality rate in World War 1 for Scottish troops was two-and-a-half times that of he rest of the British Army – a horrendous 26.4% compared to 11.8%. In the century since, Westminster has not lost its fondness for sending the young men (and now women) of Scotland off to die in foreign lands to no discernible purpose in affairs that are none of our business.

It’s not only nationalists north of the border that are disgusted by the proposals. Left-wing commentator Owen Jones, for example, tweeted “If we mark [the] Great War in 1914, [it] should be [as a] reminder of European ruling classes sending millions of ordinary people to die in senseless butchery”. But we fervently and passionately hope that the cynically-motivated political decision to remind the Scottish people in particular of those facts in 2014 backfires on this barbarous, immoral, venal, dishonest and vicious London government as badly as it deserves to.

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  1. 12 07 14 03:28

    The Acceptable Face of Nationalism | A Wilderness of Peace

115 to “Dulce et decorum”

  1. Scott Minto (Aka Sneekyboy) says:

    Dont forget from the Herald today this classic line also:
    “The main reason for the higher-than-average casualties among Scottish soldiers was that they were regarded as excellent, aggressive shock-troops who could be depended upon to lead the line in the first hours of battle.”
    An attitude straigh out of the battle for Quebec and Lord Wolfe:
    “I should imagine, that two or three independent Highland companies might be of use; they are hardy, intrepid, accustomed to a rough country, and no great mischief if they fall. How can you better employ a secret enemy than by making his end conducive to the common good?”

  2. I totally agree.  I think the best way to counter Cameron’s ludicrous idea is by talking up the 11/11/2018 celebrations to ensure the Unionists cannot claim the Yes side are against commemorating WWI.

  3. Holebender says:

    Scott, you should also have emphasised the “secret enemy” in the last sentence. Wolfe regarded the highlanders as his country’s secret enemies every since his experiences during the 1745-6 Jacobite Uprising.

  4. YesYesYes says:

    It’s at times like this that my resolve not to use Twitter weakens. This is what, 9 hours ago, Alex Massie considers to be a serious point against the criticism of the intention to celebrate the start of WWI in 2014:
    “Wondering if Scots nationalists upset by prospect of commemorating centenary of WWI are also upset by the marking of Flodden’s 500th next year?”.
    If I did Twitter, here’s what I would say in 140 characters:
    Not sure. Confident, though, that no nationalists had grandfathers who fought and died at Flodden.
    Perhaps what is most disturbing of all here, is that Massie is considered to be one of the more ‘serious’ unionist commentators. 

  5. Galen10 says:

    Whilst I agree it pays to be suspicious of the motives of the unionist establishment, I think it is also wise to avoid giving the appearance that we are not honouring the sacrifice and service of those Scots who fought and died. Of course one can think the war was senseless and a waste, that they were lions led by donkeys etc., but there is a difference between commemoration and celebration.

    The task is to ensure such a thing doesn’t happen again, which will be far easier if we gain independence. We shouldn’t give the hysterical unionist media ammunition to paint supporters of Scottish independence, the SNP and/or SG as dishonouring the dead; what it needs is sensitive handling to ensure the narrative is one of emphasising the disproportionate number of Scots who served and died, and their role in ensuring that the Germans didn’t win WW1.

    Whatever your views about the conduct of the war, don’t forget that a German dominated Europe wouldn’t have been a great outcome, as their attitude to smaller countries and ethnic minorities amply shows.

  6. scottish_skier says:

    Call Kaye was having a fair bit of trouble spinning this in a positive light this morning. Quite clear that most people calling in / texting thought Dave’s idea disgusting /politically motivated. They managed to bring on a few Salmond bashers of course, but these helpfully made clear that’s what they were, rather than having any real principled motives for supporting Dave’s plan.

  7. velofello says:

    Rev Stu; You could have stopped your article after the first sentence. …not the day it opened”.
    In one sentence you have exposed Cameron’s cynical hypocrisy.

    Silly me,i believed that Remembrance Day was the time to reflect on the useless carnage of war, but what good does it do anyway?  
    Big events, be it Remembrance Day or Cameron’s £50 million 2014  jaunt for English schoolchildren to visit graves in France, aren’t going to change things.
    The devout Tony Blair lied to the people of these islands and consigned many young people to early deaths. Would sending Blair to the WW1 graves change him? just this week a man walked up to a bus queue of schoolgirls, picked out the one who offended his religious views, and shot her in the head. All she was asking for was to be allowed to attend school.
    As a species we have many greedy and many evil people among us and politics as presently and cynically constructed renders the population at large powerless to stop financial fraud and useless wars. 

  8. Wullie B says:

    Even during the Indian battles the Scots highlanders were always at the fore front al all major battles with battle honours from Assaye for my own regiment which the Elephant on our Dress 1’s reminded us of , still cant say 4th battalion .
    War is the worst thing this world has given us all it guaranteed was death by the thousand and ultimate sacrifice lay with the innocent , the extermination of the undesirables (Jews,Gipsays,Coloured ,Disabled ) ,the children losing parents ,The working man sent to fight , For What I ask? fair enough WWII was about freedom almost all other conflicts was empirism of some sort ,Its time that the dead were finally laid to rest and peaceful solutions sought , and not for the wests idea of peace but also the countries that have been invaded by the west for dodgy spurious claims of WMD and ethnic cleansing , Why havent we fought in Africa where the most recent cases are (Rwanda,Somalia to name to Zimbabwe another) Because there is no interest as no oil

  9. Rev. Stuart Campbell says:

    “I think it is also wise to avoid giving the appearance that we are not honouring the sacrifice and service of those Scots who fought and died.”

    There’s a perfectly good day for doing that already. I’m very disappointed that the SNP has so quickly gone along with this plan, though I do see how easily it would have been spun if they hadn’t. But I’d rather they’d taken a stand anyway.

  10. Cassandra Lee says:

    Well something has finally got me to make a comment on here, after reading since nearly the beginning. Of my four relatives who fought in WW1, only 1, my grandfather, came back. I am disgusted by this cynical, jingoistic posturing on the part of Cameron and the Britnat establishment that are lapping it up. However, I was pleasantly surprised to hear universal condemnation on Call Kayewithanee this morning. It gives me hope that this will back fire quite spectacularly.

  11. Willie Zwigerland says:

    Stuart, I believe this is an almighty straw man you’ve constructed here. I’d be flabbergasted if the 100th anniversary of the start of World War 1 isn’t commemorated throughout Europe.
    I may have been a schoolboy, but I have vivid memories of the 50th anniversary of the start of World War II being commemorated.

  12. Rev. Stuart Campbell says:

    I’m having a lot of trouble Googling for any evidence of nationwide events to that purpose on September 3rd 1989. I’m sure it got mentioned on the news and suchlike, but a £50m government-sponsored brouhaha? Nothing. Can you help?

  13. Wullie B says:

    “Arbeit Macht Frei” Labour will set you free, Kind of says it all really , now whats the German  for Condem to add before it

  14. zedeeyen says:

    David Cameron: “This was the extraordinary sacrifice of a generation. It was a sacrifice they made for us, and it is right that we should remember them,”

    And by “us” he surely means “the British establishment”.

    He can’t possibly mean “we of later generations”, because that would imply that he doesn’t know a damned thing about the Great War.

  15. Steven of Songnam says:

    Even in another reality, where for whatever reasons there could be no ulterior motive for this, I would be very uncomfortable celebrating the start of a war. If it absolutely must be commemorated, it should be in the form of a sombre reminder that people killed other people by the millions for no good reason. I’ll be worried – about the state of humanity – if we remember World War I en masse with flag-waving and cheering and modern military showmanship. To sanitize and legitimize the slaughter of so many people is dangerous and depressing. The Great War was not a fantastic adventure. It was hell on Earth.

    It dishonors the dead to lie about them.

  16. scottish_skier says:

    I’d be flabbergasted if the 100th anniversary of the start of World War 1 isn’t commemorated throughout Europe”

    This is not like birthdays, weddings etc you understand. 

  17. Morag says:

    It’s not exactly subtle, is it.  I mean, couldn’t he have waited until a quiet period in the referendum discussions and sort of snuck the announcement in at that point?  But he has to announce it a couple of days before the referendum agreement is signed.

    Here was me imagining that between 2014 and 2018 we would have a series of rather sombre and contemplative events marking particular events during the war, such as the Somme, with scholarly documentaries and perhaps artistic commemorations.  I recall that’s what happened for the 50th (or was it 60th) anniversaries in the Second World War.  The one linked to the Normandy landings was particularly memorable.  I barely remember what was done as regards “commemorating” the actual outbreak of war in 1939.  Re-broadcasts of Chamberlain’s infamous speech is about all I recall.

    I never for half a second contemplated that the beginning of hostilities in 1914 would be singled out for a flag-waving jamboree comparable to the Queen’s diamond jubilee celebrations.  It’s the work of a sick mind, and the political motivation is blatant for any to see.

  18. Megz says:

    I think it is in poor taste to try an use this in a political sense, while i think the actual date should be marked, not to be celebrated since so many died during ‘The war to end all wars’ (especially such a disproportionate number of Scots, another union dividend) but to highlight the fact that clearly lessons still have not been learned from that war by great britain.

    I would hope that given Scotlands stance on the Iraq/Afghanistan wars they would be more interested in having a country where we arent dragged into wars we do not support, still seeing our men and women die needlessly.  I dont know the numbers from these current wars so i couldnt say if it were still disproportionate or not.

  19. Ron Maclean says:

    “… you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”  Not if the MSM have anything to do with it.

  20. Morag says:

    I may have been a schoolboy, but I have vivid memories of the 50th anniversary of the start of World War II being commemorated.

    It was mentioned, but that’s about it.  It’s possible your school made more of it than the general population.  I remember news broadcasts replaying Chamberlain’s appeasement speech, and maybe Churchill’s “fight them on the beaches” one.  I believe there were a couple of documentaries delving into the reasons for the outbreak of war.

    What there was not, was the slightest suggestion that this was an appropriate occasion for flag-waving national hoopla.  The very idea would have been considered grossly offensive.  It was seen as marking the beginning of Britain’s darkest hour.

    What on earth is Cameron suggesting we actually do?  Public participation in such events is invariably confined to commemorations of the end of the war.  Events during the war are the stuff of documentaries, and sombre visits to the battlefield by elderly veterans with poppies and wheelchars.  There are none of these left now.

    Has he really thought this through?

  21. Cassandra Lee says:

    IIRC, for the 50th anniversary of the outbreak of WW2 they had Sue Lawley doing a five min news bulletin every night for a couple of weeks beforehand, of what the news would have been at that point 50 years ago. I remember thinking it was quite good, and in no way at all was it a ‘celebration’. But others are right; whatever may be said about ‘commemoration’ rather than celebration, the mere mention of a comparison with the diamond jamboree gives the lie to that.

  22. Galen10 says:

    @ Rev St and scottish_skier

    It’s not a celebration; any right thinking person would condemn such a thing. It behoves us however not to make knee jerk judgments that anything that comes out of the mouth of any unionist must therefore be not only wrong, but evil.

    Centenaries are naturally seen as something different; the further we get away from the events, the more important it is to ensure they are remembered, commemorated. Of course there are wrong and right ways of doing this…. but nobody (as far as I know) is suggesting street parties and joy filled celebrations.

    Yes of course we already have the 11th November and Remembrance Sunday, but why is it necessarily wrong to commemorate other events like the start of the war, or the first day of the Somme etc.?

    I’m sorry..I just think many of the points come across as carping and an almost wilful need to find a bad motive. 

    As independence supporters it is surely incumbent on us to ensure that the unionist narrative and agenda doesn’t go unchallenged without being seen as trying to score cheap political points….. we should leave that to the unionist establishment.

  23. Willie Zwigerland says:

    Morag, the only suggestion I’ve seen that Cameron is suggesting ‘flag-waving hoopla’  on the anniversary on the start of world war 1 is on this blog. If I wanted to be outraged by things that don’t happen and aren’t planned to happen, I’d read the Daily Mail.

    Anyway I suggest you read what Cameron said here
    and then please reflect about whether your outrage is still justified, or if you have been hoodwinked by the hysterical reportage in this blog.

  24. Rev. Stuart Campbell says:

    Sorry, Willie, maybe that evidence you had of the 50th anniversary of WW2 starting being “commemorated” in this way got lost in the spam filter. Please repost.

  25. Luigi says:

    Recent events such as this start of war celebration development have had a strange effect on me. I normally keep my political views to myself, knowing how easily offended people become on emotive subjects like war and independence. This morning, I finally snapped and spoke out to a group of colleagues who were speaking about the referendum with ignorant comments like “why on earth do they want to separate” and  ” first they said Scotland would be like Iceland, then Norway etc etc”. (too wee too stupid etc). So I just stood up and said “I will be voting yes”. The horrified look on their faces, as if I had gone mad, was priceless. I asked an Irish lady who had been questioning why, how she would feel if there was a nuclear arms base situated  10 miles from Dublin and how independence was the only way to get rid of WMDs on the Clyde. An English colleague responded “I will be voting no” to which I replied, “Ok fair enough, if you believe in Britain”, by all means vote no, but don’t believe that we are too wee to go it alone”. ” We are able to make a go of it, Scotland could be the 6th richest country in the world,  believe with independence we could start something great”. Had to leave it there. I wish I had articulated an better argument, but speaking out on this is new to me. It will take time. The reason I am posting this hear is that it is very important for supporters of independence to start speaking out. Don’t be worried about offending people (some will be offended). The future of your country and your children is more important than a friend or colleague’s feelings. I know many of you “naturals” are already arguing the case effectively at home, work and play. However, I also feel that many reserved people like me out there, who read these posts and have yet to speak out in public about how they feel about independence. The first time is the worst. The more you practice it, the better you will become. Take a few small steps to begin. Start talking!

  26. Morag says:

    Cameron compared his vision for this appalling event to the Queen’s diamond jubilee celebrations.  I think that says it all.

  27. Rev. Stuart Campbell says:

    “Yes of course we already have the 11th November and Remembrance Sunday, but why is it necessarily wrong to commemorate other events like the start of the war, or the first day of the Somme etc.?”

    Because war ending is a good thing and war starting is a bad thing?

    Maybe it’s because I’ve got a cold, but I’m having a lot of trouble managing not to lose my temper with anyone making limp excuses for this bullshit. We didn’t “commemorate” the outbreak of the war on the 50th anniversary, or the 60th, or the 70th, or the 75th, or the 80th, or the 90th. The idea that there’s something particularly different and special about the 100th is, frankly, fucking moronic.

  28. Kenny Campbell says:

    That 26.4% figure quoted in the Herald I think can be easily challenged and is in my view incorrect. It comes from Niall Ferguson’s book the Pity of War and I’ve seen it banded about a few times. There is no reference from Ferguson on how he calculated the figures. You can’t just use the Scottish regiment’s tag and assume they were all Scottish, this is especially so in the latter part of the war when conscription meant casualty replacements went everywhere. This of course works inversely as well.
    It would be impossible to tell with any degree of accuracy what the actual split is given that no regiment was completely Scottish nor English if you are using Scottish regiments as the base numbers. The total casualty figures from the war vary enormously from source to source.
    In itself its a minor point, the sacrifices made were enormous across the whole commonwealth.
    I can say that Scottish troops were known to be courageous and were feared by the Germans but so were the Aussies and Canadians in no small part due to their overall better ‘quality’ of recruit as they had a much higher percentage of willing volunteers.

  29. Neil Jn says:

    I’m glad some others caught the ‘call kay’ show. A great example of hopeful spin going horribly wrong.
    Firstly she gave it away by admitting to have listened to a similar discussion on five live last night and hearing a very positive response. It was, no doubt, expected to be the same here.
    The response was almost completely condemnatory and kay adams was panicking and scrambling around to find something to say to support cameron.
    The subject for discussion quickly moved on and stayed away until the end at which point a supportive speaker was introduced only as colonel bob stewart, no mention of the fact that he was a conservative mp.
    Adams summarised that the responses had been equally divided.
    Cheap, shoddy, unprofessional radio. Didn’t help that the station went down to be followed by the tediously awful fred mcauley.
    Roll on a properly funded, imaginative, exciting, fair Scottish broadcasting organisation. 

  30. scottish_skier says:

    Will events kick off on 28th June, anniversary of the assassination Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria, or will we wait a month for the proper official start?

    Although having said that the first deaths (other than the Duke) occurred in Togoland, Africa starting ~7th August. So maybe something can be organised to mark this? Or maybe the focus should be European fighting, which started with the Austrian invasion of Serbia on 12th August? But then that’s not involving Brits vs jerries so probably not that ‘captivating’ as Dave put it; best wait a few days and mark the start of the mass killing on the western front?
    Wait a minute, this all seems rather complex and well, somewhat tasteless. I suggest the one date that we all know well and understand the meaning of. That’ll be 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month. A minute of silence would be appropriate.


  31. Rev. Stuart Campbell says:

    “What on earth is Cameron suggesting we actually do? Public participation in such events is invariably confined to commemorations of the end of the war. Events during the war are the stuff of documentaries, and sombre visits to the battlefield by elderly veterans with poppies and wheelchars. There are none of these left now.”

    It’s the mention of fucking football matches that really shoots the bollocks off the whole “it’s not a celebration” idea. Who are these “friendlies” going to be between? The Allies, excluding modern Germany? Oh yeah, brilliant idea. Or maybe England (because England = Britain) will play Germany, only they better do it in Albania if they don’t want 90,000 English fans singing “Ten German Bombers” and “Two World Wars And One World Cup, Doo-dah”. And are the crowds supposed to just stand in solemn brotherly appreciation of the spectacle, applauding both sides equally when they score?

    Seriously, my fucking head’s fucking spinning at the sheer ridiculous insanity of the idea that this is just an honest commemoration. If people keep saying it someone’s going to get a slap.

  32. james morton says:

    I remember that the anniversary of these events beginning were marked and commented on. What these events did do was an act of remembrance, of the sacrifices made. What was not done was a programme that celebrated it starting, unless it was done in some ironic manner like “oh what a lovely war”

    But I do regard it as a storm in a tea-cup when I read another dreary piece of bolloks in the telegraph that Scotland would be voting to be like greece if we went for independence. Lets keep our eyes on the ball at least, let them faff about playing to the cheap seats in England.

  33. Aucheorn says:

    Call in the psychiatrists, the asylum is empty, the inmates are running the country.
    Like the jubilee, are we going to have barges going down the Thames with coffins on them that we can all cheer and wave our union flags.  Sorry, I know it’s sick but that’s the image that “celebrate” conjures up.
    We commemorate the dead at the end of a war and celebrate the end of a war not the bloody start.
    I agree the SNP spokesperson was too quick to respond, a simple “Hmm” would have been sufficient.

  34. Cuphook says:

    “A commemoration that captures our national spirit in every corner of the country…
    …from our schools and workplaces, to our town halls and local communities.
    A commemoration that, like the Diamond Jubilee celebrations this year, says something about who are as a people.” DC

    Sounds like a celebration to me.  

    scottish_skier makes me wonder if we could start off events by shooting a Prince. 

  35. Kenny Campbell says:

    We’re clearly going to just celebrate our way out of recession, this is the Plan B.

  36. Cuphook says:

    DC even mentions the book ‘Warhorse’ as ‘showing the sacrifice of animals in war.’ To call it a sacrifice suggests that the animals knew what they were doing. Not even the generals knew what they were doing.

  37. Kenny Campbell says:

    Horses for the Union

  38. scottish_skier says:


    I’m lost for words. The man makes me feel physically sick.

    A commemoration that, like the Diamond Jubilee celebrations this year, says something about ‘who are as a people’

    It says something about you and your Tory buddies Dave, not me.

  39. Muttley79 says:

    Rev Stu, it was the mentioning of the football match that I knew this was not going to be a proper commemoration.  The idea just stinks of emotional manipulation.  There is no way a football match should even have been mentioned, or the Jubilee for that matter.  I think it was linked to the brief Christmas truce.  

  40. murtam says:


    Kenny Campbell says:
    October 12, 2012 at 11:17 am

    That 26.4% figure quoted in the Herald I think can be easily challenged and is in my view incorrect. It comes from Niall Ferguson’s book the Pity of War and I’ve seen it banded about a few times. There is no reference from Ferguson on how he calculated the figures. You can’t just use the Scottish regiment’s tag and assume they were all Scottish, this is especially so in the latter part of the war when conscription meant casualty replacements went everywhere. This of course works inversely as well.

    While this may be true, I am vividly  remembering the number of war memorials in many small Highland villages where a  whole generation of young men are recorded as having died in “the Great War”. Whole families listed together, the future of whole areas of Scotland blasted to bits on the battlefields of Europe. Truly heroes led by donkeys!!

  41. Cuphook says:

    It does say something about us though: in the 100 years since the war which Woodrow Wilson called ‘the war to make the world safe for democracy’ we have continually voted for the monied classes to run the country and send ‘our brave boys’ off to die in other foriegn adventures.

  42. Luigi says:

    The intention to commemorate the start of WW1 is either the desperate act of a madman to try and save the union, or an act of sheer genius to ensure a yes vote in 2014. Have David Cameron and his advisers flipped already, or are they far more clever than we think? Jury’s out.

  43. Macart says:

    Cameron and all his kind are a disgrace. Sacrifice????? He’s never sacrificed anything in his entire bloody life. I have a fascinating wee book on the contribution of the 7th (territorial) Battalion of the Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders contribution in WW1. Every time I read it I’m struck by the language of the privileged officer class who led these Kilsyth lads into hellish slaughter. It has the strange effect of leaving you both proud and disgusted at the same time.

    If you want Rev I could send you a digital copy. Its not a huge tome only twenty pages, but it still has the power to leave an impression. 

  44. Rev. Stuart Campbell says:

    “You can’t just use the Scottish regiment’s tag and assume they were all Scottish, this is especially so in the latter part of the war when conscription meant casualty replacements went everywhere. This of course works inversely as well.”

    Indeed, which is why it’s a fair enough rule of thumb. I don’t think anyone’s claiming it’s forensic evidence down to the last man, but in a war in which regiments and battalions were expressly and deliberately formed en masse from towns and villages and even workplaces, and in which the population in general was less mobile than it is now, it’s not unreasonable to treat it as broadly accurate.

  45. Macart says:

    Doh editor wasn’t working. Excuse the extra contribution on the contribution. 🙂

  46. Jeannie says:

    Maybe it’s just me, but I kind of think that when a politician makes an announcement about something that isn’t going to happen for another 2 years and does so, deliberately, at a political conference which is being televised to the entire nation (s), then the chances are that that politician is doing so for political reasons, which would generally be of benefit to that particular politician.  He could have announced this at any other time, but he chose this one. 
    Personally, I think that when it comes to war, the people who start it and keep it going are the last people who should be suggesting we commemorate the waste, the suffering and the deaths.  We cannot honour dead soldiers by sending their present-day comrades to fight, be injured and die in illegal wars they cannot win. 
    A more fitting tribute to our servicemen, past and present, would be to vote in favour of peace, but how many people voted for Blair more than once, then continued to re-elect MPs/MSPs who voted in favour of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
    The only real way to honour ALL of the war dead, civilians and military alike, is to vote for Peace – in 2014.

  47. Aplinal says:

    Indeed it was.  Actually the first Christmas, in 1914.  Although it also occurred later in the war.  The ordinary troops sang carols to each other and some did play football.  Then days later they were slaughtering each other.
    The incompetence of generals, and the vain-glory of politicians knows no bounds, sadly.

  48. Kenny Campbell says:

    We need to recognize that supposed incompetence specific to the military leadership was across all nationalities.

  49. Cuphook says:

    Will the newspapers be reminding us that the Bosch eat children and rape nuns?

    As we remember the suffering of a previous generation will David Cameron use the opportunity to explain why British soldiers are still dying abroad? Will he explain why misery must be brought upon this generation so that we can afford the obscenity of Trident?   

  50. Scott Minto (Aka Sneekyboy) says:

    The PR Propaganda machine has already swung into action.

    If you look at T.V schedules its Britain this and Britain that…

    Last night I watched 2 documentaries –

    1) Ian Hislop and the History of the stiff upper lip (BBC 2) – a fawning piece that charted british stoicism and the great expansion of empire. At one point he talks to MP Rory Stewart, who discusses the emotional demands he faced as a British appointed Governor in Iraq. There is the introduction which goes into how he was at Eton then Oxford and Governor of 2 districts of Iraq before even being 30. Must be an incredible person to have risen so high so fast…

    Anyway, the documentary continues with how hard he had to work to maintain the British position by ensuring that whan they were under attack, he was clean shaven and wearing a clean shirt when attending the dining room…

    OBVIOUSLY the poor squaddies fighting and dying to defend the position helped slightly eh…    

    Finally, he visits the First World War battlefields of the Somme and began to describe the courageous scene where an officer in a Yorkshire regiment kicked two balls into no-mans land and told his men to dribble them into the German lines.

    The tone was far from somber and the 150 men that died during that escapade were described more as a celebration of the beligerism that sent them over the top in that manner rather than in commemoration of such bad leadership that killed most of them. A celebration of just how jolly brave us Brits are… we should go to war more often just to prove it.

    But hey, they won that stretch of line since the germans had a football team to shoot at and the other soldiers at the front got the job done.    

    2) I then watched a documentary called ‘The British’ – In part of the program they talked about the empire being eroded from within by the “poor stock” at home before handily cutting to Glasgow and talking about how setting up military organisations for children and giving them books on christian imperial moralism told through stories of cricket helped sort them out… at points the will the bang my head off the floor was immense.

    This is only the beginning. It will get much, much more obvious and crass 

  51. David Cameron is clearly hoping to spoil things for the referendum, but he will not be in sole control of what happens in 2014.  Especially here in Scotland, where we can determine how this war is commemorated.  It is good to mark this 100th anniversary, but the focus needs to be on reflecting why the war started.  A war to preserve empires and to thwart violently the rights of small nations is not exactly good news for Unionists.  The end of this war saw the creation of many new, small countries, again not an outcome that will suit Unionists.  The pro independence movement should see this as an opportunity to expose the backwardness and bankruptcy of the UK. 

  52. Craig P says:

    I have recently read a biography of Keir Hardie by Bob Holman.
    Keir was a voice in the wilderness against the great war, he was pilloried, ridiculed and abused for this position and came close to being beaten by mobs a couple of times.
    As the casualties mounted he endured daily agony, knowing how wrong it was but being unable to do anything about it. Supposedly the knowledge of all these deaths sent him to an early grave.
    I would recommend this biography to anyone interested in politics, and compare and contrast Hardie with the politicians of today, especially those who claim his legacy.

  53. scottish_skier says:

    @Alister Rutherford

    Yes, the only really good thing which resulted from WWI & I was ultimately the end of European imperialism, which as we all know Britain was particularly famous for. Was hardly the intention of those at the top of course, but every cloud has a sliver lining.

  54. Muttley79 says:

    Yes Craig P. Keir Hardie was against the First World War from the very beginning I think.  I read a biography by Kenneth Morgan on him ages ago.  A real political giant and Labour legend.  He was also a staunch supporter of Home Rule for Scotland, from what I recall a form of Devo-max, long before the term was used.  His close colleague, Cunningham-Graham helped found the National Party of Scotland, the precursor of the SNP.  Was also the first president of the SNP.

  55. Cuphook says:

    And talking of great Labour leaders –
    While all this is going on I notice Ed has said that Dave ‘can never be a One Nation Prime Minister’. He puts me in mind of a wee boy who’s given himself a cool nickname; ‘from now on I want you to call me The Edinator, okay guys… Guys?’

  56. albaman says:

    Rev Stuart,
    I liked your hard hitting article, is there any way you could get it published 
    in say The Huffington Post, The New York Times, The Washington Post,
    or the Herald Sun in Australia, I`d love to find out what folk in other
    countries think of this cynical idea, I do not think it is solely down to
    Cameron,  ( I Davidson, L Foulkes,M Forsyth. ) spring to mind. 

  57. James T says:

    This is going to be my last post on this subject. It just angers me.

    1. There is no need to commerate the start of the war. If they want to, have a 2minute silence at 11am on the 4th august, and that should be the end of it.

    2. Cameron has to be riling the Scots; he has to be. I see no other reason for it.

    3. Willie. Your talking through a hole in your backside. Stop trying to justify something that cost the lives of 20 million people. You shame them by trying to commemorate the start of a war. And Willie, remember this…the war also led to national self-determination. I wonder if we’ll be holding up that fact on August 4th. Just remember, it led to the freedom of the Czechs, Slovaks, Slovenians, Poles, Lithuanians, Latvians, Estonians, Croats, etc when 4 Empires fell. Cameron and his ilk want an ‘Empire’ day to commemorate the great British Empire. It would F***** hilarious if this blows up in the Unionist faces, should it enrage ALL the Scots to vote for Independence.

    4. And to spend £50 million pounds on it….why???? We have never spent even close to that sum of money for November 11th each year. 

    And with that….I’m away to do something a lot more interesting than seethe and comment over the stupidity that comes out of ‘our’ Prime Minister’s mouth.  

  58. balgayboy says:

    For a start let’s kick-off the celebrations with a factual history lesson to the real reasons for the start of WW1 and a factual history lesson to what the results the Scottish soldiers were fighting for after the end of it.
    Those who survived returned home to mass unemployment and desperate poverty only to have the UK Government guns turned on them when they protested in Glasgow.
    Yup, lets really celebrate by telling the real truth about why WW1 started and the resulting consequences to our Scottish nation by losing a whole generation of young men for the madness of the imperialistic establishment and a couple o Queen Vic’s nephews falling out.

  59. YesYesYes says:

    @Craig P,
    You’re right to draw attention to Hardie’s opposition to WWI. But, more significant for Scottish socialists, was John MacLean’s opposition. WWI divided socialists in Europe as many revisionists supported their nationalist governments’ taking their countries into the war. MacLean’s opposition was notable for drawing attention to Scotland’s particular predicament, and he was a much more serious threat at the time to the British state. You can get a flavour of that in this link but there is a lot of archived material easily available to anyone who’s curious about this period:
    Several posters have drawn attention to notable anti-war songs. I think that one of the most moving anti-war songs is ‘Jamie Foyers’ (sung by Dick Gaughan, with words by Ewan MacColl), to commemorate the sacrifices of the  international Brigade, many of them ordinary workers, and all of whom had volunteered to fight fascism in the Spanish Civil War:

  60. Willie Zwigerland says:

    James T.
    So you’re saying the loss of lives in World War 1 was worth it because it led to some countries gaining independence? There’s the murkier side of nationalism for you. They’ll be dancing in the streets of Sarajevo.

  61. Cuphook says:

    This is from WW2 but appropriate:

    One Election took them
    and did not take me,
    without asking us
    which was better or worse:
    it seemed as devilishly indifferent
    as the shells.

    Six men dead at my shoulder
    on an Autumn day.

    An Autumn Day: Sorley MacLean

  62. Training Day says:

    I can do no better than to add to the above comments than by repeating Lloyd George’s famous comment to Guardian editor C.P. Scott on the situation in the trenches: If the people really knew the truth, the war would be stopped tomorrow’.

    This is the war which the fool Cameron and his vile, disgusting, abhorrent party – and their lackeys in the media – wish to ‘commemorate’.

    I really feel the time has come – starting in Edinburgh on Monday – to give Cameron an unequivocal message, one that will be readily apprehended by this charlatan and his acolytes in the Unionist parties.  If we truly deserve independence we can start by rejecting outright the notions and values that this imposter represents, and say so publicly without fear or favour. 

  63. Erchie says:

    The notion that a family feud, sparked off by Austria trying to stay relevant sthat led to the slaughter of millions should be marked, instead of the return of peace is fucking mad.
    Your latest troll, or incarnation of a troll is sinking lower than normal

    This was a war where men were shot from Regiments if enough of them didn’t die in an assault (our French allies), where the “Pals Regiments” led to deep felt grief in whole communities

    And back home greedy landlords and bosses were screwing tenants and workers as ever

  64. Doug Daniel says:

    The best way to commemorate the Great War is to start teaching kids history honestly. That “Two World Wars” chant from England fans is exactly what you get when you teach kids to think of wars as goodies versus baddies, us against them. There were no winners from the Great War, only losers, and it most certainly was not England versus Germany, as people tend to think of it.

    I’m actually not against making more of a deal about teaching people about the war, but do it properly, and for the right reasons. Let kids know that the war was a complex affair about various empires competing for power, rather than The Germans trying to invade Belgium and the brave Brits saving the day.

    Commemorations about the war should be about the loss of humanity, not trying to foster “national spirit”. 

  65. Jeannie says:

    So Ed sets out his credentials for the 2015 General Election by promoting his “One Nation” version of Britishness.  Dave immediately tries to get one over on HIM by promoting HIS “One Nation” version of Britishness by hijacking WW1.  I wonder if Ed is now kicking himself that he didn’t think of this first.  It’s not just about the independence referendum, it’s about the general election in 2015.  Cameron will still want to win that, irrespective of how we vote in 2014.
    I wish I did not have such a low opinion of politicians but experience has taught me never to give them the benefit of the doubt.

  66. Rev. Stuart Campbell says:

    Macart: would love to see that book. Drop me a line via the Contact form.

  67. Training Day says:

    O/T Stu, can I suggest you add Joyce McMillan to your zany comedy relief section?  In today’s Scotsman she appears to be suggesting that the wearing of tartan trews and a visit to a golf tournament in Chicago by a certain individual is directly impacting upon the ability to construct an argument in favour of social democracy and the preservation of universal benefits.  Utterly wacky.

  68. Morag says:

    I had thought, in a vague sort of way, that 2014-18 would be interesting from a history perspective, as there would certainly be many documentaries and other history programmes explaining what really happened and putting the events into their proper historical and moral perspective.  (I remember the re-reading of the 50-year-old news bulletins now, it was indeed interesting.)

    If Cameron’s jingoism is going to see these programmes changed to gung-ho cepebrations of Britishness and sheer propaganda, I’ll be extremely disappointed.

    Who needs £50 million, for what?  People will do stuff anyway.  Broadcasters, journalists, artists, musicians, organisations related to the armed forces – all of these will be keen to use the anniversaries as they arrive to enlighten and inform the content they provide.  That’s what’s always happened before.

    I remember the 50th anniversary celebrations in 1995, though.  The END of the war.  There were parades and events and it was all very enjoyable and appriopriate.  If some money should be spent, then would be the time to spend it.  Make 11th November 2018 a day to remember, and then some.  (But £50 million?  That’s obscene.)

    What does he want for 2014?  Parades and street parties?


  69. Oldnat says:

    The political intention of this is made quite clear by the comments from the Yes and No campaigns.

    A spokesman for Yes Scotland said: “The horrific sacrifice and bloodshed of the First World War is something for everyone in Scotland, across the UK and indeed the nations of the ­Commonwealth to remember and honour – and people of all political views and none will come together on that respectful basis, as is always the case.”
    A spokesman for Better ­Together added: “This will be an important occasion for our country – a chance for us to come together to remember the millions of soldiers from across Britain who fought and, in so many cases, died for our ­freedom.” 

  70. Macart says:

    Would I be able to send a PDF through WOS form or is it a case of just giving you an email address to contact me?

  71. balgayboy says:

    If you get the book can you please publish it (if allowed) It may help those people not related to these times that WW1 was a some kind off glorious war. My Grandfather MM, told me different and I believe him, God Rest His Soul.

  72. Morag says:

    We’ve listened to so many sneers about nationalists living in the past, and Bannockburn being 1314, and how tacky it would be to use the Bannockburn remembrance for political purposes.

    Now look.

  73. Arbroath 1320 says:

    Cuphook, in answer to your point earlier:
    scottish_skier makes me wonder if we could start off events by shooting a Prince. 
    Can I suggest Charles as the prince in question, kill two birds with one stone so to speak. Sorry for the pun, 
    I  posted this on the previous article but I think it might be worth while re posting it here.

    Perhaps Cameron and EVERYONE else at Westminster who currently is or has aspirations to be a party leader should be forced to listen to this EVERY night! Who knows perhaps the message might EVENTUALLY get through their thick skulls!

  74. james morton says:

    So many things one could say but in the end what is it, except wallowing in the what was. Let them talk about the past, let them try to celebrate the start of a war in jingoisitic tones. Let them think that this is part of a double whammy of britishness with the olympics as the first blow. Lets keep them gazing into the past, while the world moves on past them. We’ll keep arguing for a better future and look forwards not back.

  75. Bill C says:

    As some folk on here may know I posted yesterday on Cameron’s commemoration/Brit fest.  In that post I described how my two great uncles had died fighting for King and Country, how their army pay was stopped and their families, left penniless, were kicked off their crofts by the ‘German Lairdie’ who ‘owned’ their land. I tell the story for two reasons: 1) To illustrate the the hypocrisy of the British Establishment and the brutality of capitalism. Two men died for ‘their country’ yet the British Establishment lifted not a finger in their families defence as a German aristocrat booted them off ‘his’ land. You could not make it up!  Needless to say our family’s misfortune was only one of millions of other tales of slaughter, grief and misery. 2) Cameron and the Tories are descendents of that British Establishment which sent millions to their death. They are proud of the ideology, morality and privilige they have inherited and they will go to any lengths to defend their class.
     Cameron told his Conference in reference to the referendum that “we will give it all we’ve got”.  By God was never a truer word said: How cruel, how cynical, how desperate, that he would speak of Jubilee celebrations in the same breath as the slaughter of millions!

  76. Rev. Stuart Campbell says:

    Macart: yeah, if you use the contact form I’ll get back to you with an email address. Or you could just upload it somewhere and send or post the link.

  77. John Lyons says:

    Ach, let’s just let them get on with it and join in in our own way. I’ll be singing the Green Fields of France and The Scottish Soldier for them. Two of my favourite Scottish folk songs.

  78. Cuphook says:

    I see that the UK have signed a defence agreement with Bahrain. Good to know they’ve got our back should the damned Bosch try any of their nonsense.

    I’m assuming that it’s not just a deal whereby British soldiers potentially die for oil rights.

  79. Seasick Dave says:

    Completely OT but worth knowing…

    Scottish Labour’s Rami Okasha to step down as head of strategy.

  80. Clachangowk says:

    My Grandfather and great uncle were killed in the great war.

    My mother never knew her father

    I shall not be commemorating/celebrating the cause of their death.

    This is unbelievably bad taste. I am not a protester by nature but my gut feeling now is that if this commemoration happens I should get out and protest at people celebrating/commemorating the cause of their death

  81. Kenny Campbell says:

    “Indeed, which is why it’s a fair enough rule of thumb. I don’t think anyone’s claiming it’s forensic evidence down to the last man, but in a war in which regiments and battalions were expressly and deliberately formed en masse from towns and villages and even workplaces, and in which the population in general was less mobile than it is now, it’s not unreasonable to treat it as broadly accurate.”

    When you say broadly accurate how inaccurate are you allowed to be ? Where for example do the London Scottish sit ? Are they Scottish or not ?
    I still say the number concerned is actually not a major issue although much is made of it in this article.
    At 26.4% Scotland would have to have suffered ~147,000 dead, yet the Registrar of Scotland after the war put the number at 74,000. Its clear that this only includes those domiciled in Scotland at enlistment who subsequently died. The 74,000 number naturally excludes Scots living outside of Scotland at enlistment, so its probably a low water mark.  

    I’m pretty sure the 147K number comes from Scottish National War Memorial number(their website seems to be dead now) but you should note that this includes soldiers of claimed Scottish descent regardless of their actual place of birth and place of enlistment. The point being when does someone who is domiciled in Canada or Aus or NZ re-become a Scot.  If we allow this then percentages based on only Scottish population census at the time is not really accurate, plus the nearest census to the war must have been 1911.
    I just don’t think the argument needs to be we lost more so we suffered more. There was plenty of suffering, that is enough to be getting on with and those who seek to make political capital from it should hang their heads in shame.

  82. Macart says:

    Fired off an address Rev. Get in touch anytime.

  83. Jeannie says:

    I just don’t get it.  Why would anyone thing they had the moral authority to lead the country in commemorating the senseless loss, sacrifice and destruction of the First World War at the same time as they have troops fighting in Afghanistan, have just aided in the bombing of Libya, are making threatening noises towards Iran, have just signed a defence treaty with Bahrain and have approved the updating of Trident missiles?
    I’m reminded of the words of  “StarTrekin Across the Universe”  –  “We come in peace, shoot to kill, shoot to kill, shoot to kill………. You just couldn’t make it up!

  84. Holebender says:

    I remember when the death of the 100th serviceman in Iraq was announced I did a little exercise and looked up where all 100 of them were from. It turned out that 18 of them (iirc) were from Scotland. That’s twice the number you’d expect on a strictly proportion of population basis.
    In other words, the disproportionate slaughter of Scots in Britain’s wars continues to this day.

  85. Alex Grant says:

    Great article Stu. My grandfather died on the Somme on the day my mother was born and I find the idea of a ‘celebration’ a fucking obscenity but it’s no surprise. And sadly it will be no surprise to me if the majority of German ( and most other foreigners) hating English people think it’s a grand idea. What the majority of Scots think God knows?  What the majority of Europeans think I’m pretty sure will be negative. But then they think we are obsessed by war!
    in summary I’m afraid any negative comment would be used against us? 

  86. mato21 says:

    We can understand now why he changed his stance and stated “he was not fussed” regarding the timing referendum.

  87. KOF says:

    Here’s what one Great War veteran thought about Armistice Day.
    “The first Armistice Day had been a carnival; the second Armistice Day, after its solemn pause at the Two Minutes’ Silence which King George V was believed to have initiated, was a day of festivity again. For some years I was one of a group of friends who met, every Armistice Day, at the Cafe Royal for no end of a party, until we began to find ourselves out of key with the new age. Imperceptibly, the Feast-Day became a Fast-Day and one could hardly go brawling on the Sabbath. The do-gooders captured the Armistice, and the British Legion seemed to make its principal outing a day of mourning. To march to the Cenotaph was too much like attending one’s own funeral, and I know many old soldiers who found it increasingly discomforting, year by year. We preferred our reunions in private with no pacifist propaganda.”

  88. Aplinal says:


    That personal tale is not really surprising.  They had been through hell and made it back, with fewer friends, but closer ones.  No surprise that they wanted to celebrate the end of it all and the fact that they were still here.

    But politicians did not fight on the front line, and for them to use this occasion for their own ends is disgusting and reprehensible.

    My father served in the WWII, he certainly never ‘celebrated’ or ‘commemorated’ the start of the war, but he was always quiet at the anniversary of its end.   That’s as it should be.

    This is a political decision by a government that sees the once mighty “British Empire” on its last legs, and the Scots are the final ‘colony’.  Once we go, they really do have nothing left.  They are fighting for their positions, here and on the world stage.  That has always been the most important thing for them and theirs.  

  89. Ronald Henderson. says:

    People seem to think that one hundred years ago is a long time; it isn’t. My mother was twelve years old when the First World War ended, and she died only four years ago, aged 100. She knew people who had died in that war. I remember her telling me about the woman who lived upstairs in their tenement block in Glasgow, and whose three sons were killed in that war. The poor woman lost her mind. Is this what David Cameron and his unthinking herd of a Government want us all to celebrate?
    It is beyond words that the British Establishment will sink to this depth just to have another go at waving Union Flags. This whole thing has really upset me.

  90. KBW says:
    A hint at the tremendous cost of WWI to Scotland is “The Call” statue in the West end of Princes Street Gardens in Edinburgh. A few years after the Great War even the Americans were so moved by the disproportionate casualty rate of the Scottish Regiments that they raised £10,000 for this memorial.

    The British Medical Journal of July 9th (1927) states that the exhibition was of special and timely interest to the medical profession as the annual meeting of the British Medical Association was this year held in Edinburgh; many of the main exhibits being studies and sketch models for the Scottish War Memorial to be a gift from America. The Journal goes on to say that the underlying idea of Professor Tait McKenzie’s beautiful group was explained by the inscription upon the pedestal of the main figure -” 1914 – A tribute from men of Scottish blood and sympathies in America to Scotland.” The memorial is to be carried out in bronze and Craigleith stone. It shows a kilted youth with his rifle across his knees, seated, but preparing to spring up to answer the call’to arms, in front of a frieze which forms the background of the memorial and depicts a procession of marching recruits headed by pipers. These figures, like all his work, are remarkable for their sense of action. Underneath is carved the legend: “If it be life that waits, I shall live forever unconquered. If death, I shall die at last, strong in my pride and free.” A fine idea, finely executed. Source: Can Med Assoc J. 1927 September; 17(9): 1068–1071.

  91. douglas clark says:

    I think it is as clear as day that Cameron wants shot of us.
    I cannot think of any other explanation. Am I missing something? Could anyone else provide an alternative motivation? This is just too crass to have been unintended.

    Just asking…..

  92. This false commemoration will, if used sensitively, help to remind Scots that they were often seen as cannon fodder by London. We should not lose sight of that and the social damage that it caused in the years that followed. If and when Scotland should ever find the need to send troops abroad again, I would want it to be on Scotland’s terms, not on London’s terms. Much as unionists may misuse the 1914 anniversary I believe this can be turned around into a positive message for self-government and self-respect. Speaking of Flodden, my direct ancestor Sir William Cockburn, Baron of Langton died on the field of battle fighting Scotland’s cause. These days thankfully we have the ballot box to achieve the same result.

  93. Alasdair Frew-Bell says:

    Alliances got European powers embroiled in the senseless killing of WW1. Next week the SNP will be discussing Nato. I do hope they bear in mind that the obligations of membership may impose most unsavoury decisions upon us. The hawkish sabre rattling of Nato over supposed Syrian aggression against Turkey should be born in mind. That kind of US interests led security a potentially independent Scots state might happily do without. 

  94. Ed says:

    My late Dad served during World War Two, He never spoke about it except to say it was the working classes of both countries pitted against each other because the politicians told lies to their respective populations. A repeat of World War One

  95. Caadfael says:

    Twould seem that camoron has been looking north for solutions .. to North Korea to be precise!
    Where’s the £50m to come from Dave? Eh?
    Virtually every week we hear new figures concerning the number of “fit for work” Atos screened people dying of their ailment, and now  there is N.Larkshire being sub-contracted to do their dirty work. How long before that is spun to make “sweaties killing off their own people”?
    Hammer the poor, the elderly, the sick, the disabled, those broken in mind, spsrit and body by needless war.
    What next? The end of winter fuel allowance?
    Oh yes! That’ll kill of a few more!
    Well done Kim Il Camoron!

  96. Galen10 says:

    “Because war ending is a good thing and war starting is a bad thing?
    Maybe it’s because I’ve got a cold, but I’m having a lot of trouble managing not to lose my temper with anyone making limp excuses for this bullshit. We didn’t “commemorate” the outbreak of the war on the 50th anniversary, or the 60th, or the 70th, or the 75th, or the 80th, or the 90th. The idea that there’s something particularly different and special about the 100th is, frankly, fucking moronic.”

    I honestly hope it is because you have (had?) a cold too. It does you no credit to characterise people who hold a different point of view as morons. In other circumstances you, I and others who post on pro-independence sites would roundly condemn anyone using language like that marshalled against them. There is surely a double standard operative where Cameron can be compared with Kim Il Sung as above by people who would whip themselves into a frothing rage when Alex Salmond was described in similar terms.  

    I actually quite enjoy interacting and posting here, but this topic in particular seems to have brought out the worst in a lot of people. Play the ball, not the man.

    I’m quite aware of the arguments against plans to commemorate the outbreak of WW1, whether on the grounds of cost, taste or giving comfort to our ideological opponents. To write of those who disagree with you as morons, or to characterise the counter arguments as bullshit, says more about your intellectual abilities than it does about theirs.

    It is a perfectly defensible view that commemorating the outbreak of such a disastrous conflict is worthwhile, even laudable. Similarly, there is no logic in insisting (as many have) that the ONLY thing we are allowed to commemorate is the end of a conflict, not events within it whether the Somme, the Dardanelles, Jutland. On that basis, it would certainly be wrong to commemorate the 700th Anniversary of Bannockburn, which incidentally is seen as significant because it’s a nice round number… a bit like a centenary; funny that eh?

    On a final note, I don’t know if you’re a “real” Rev or not (and frankly could care less), but if you are there has to be some irony in  someone who believes in bronze age supernatural fairy stories handing out penny lectures about my intellectual ability.

  97. Rev. Stuart Campbell says:

    I still have a cold and I’m still cranky. But I shouldn’t be having to point out that I called AN IDEA “fucking moronic”, not any people.

    Individual battles generally end the same day they start, so marking their date IS commemorating the end, and/or a victory that brought a war closer to a successful end. It’s still ultimately about the end of killing, not the start.

  98. Galen10 says:

    Oh come now; we can all make allowances for people feeling cranky when ill, but it isn’t hard to see the casuistry in that line of argument. I’m sure we all feel better for you pointing out that you don’t think I’m a moron, just that I subscribe to an alternative point of fire to yours that you have pronounced in your wisdom to be moronic. I feel so much better.

    Commemorations of events by their nature give prominence to anniversaries with nice round numbers; the 634th Anniversary of Bannockburn isn’t seen as being the same as the 700th – the only reason for that is because the latter is a nice round number, there is no other special significance than the fact that its 7 centuries.

    Similarly, there is nothing particularly wrong with commemorating individual events within WW1 than there is commemorating Bannockburn as a single event within the Wars of Independence, or indeed of commemorating the start of the Wars of Independence; it’s not (in and or itself) making a value judgement about whether war is a good thing, or whether its a celebration or a commemoration. Like many such topics it is a matter of balance and context, the finer points of which seem to be lost on may people attacking the plans as the red mist of describing the counter arguments as moronic, or those promoting them as North Korean style dictators.

  99. Rev. Stuart Campbell says:

    “Commemorations of events by their nature give prominence to anniversaries with nice round numbers; the 634th Anniversary of Bannockburn isn’t seen as being the same as the 700th – the only reason for that is because the latter is a nice round number, there is no other special significance than the fact that its 7 centuries.”

    But absolutely nobody is proposing that we don’t mention the fact that the war started 100 years ago. The point is, we already have a day for commemorating the dead – November 11th. The anniversary can be marked perfectly adequately on that day, like every previous anniversary of it was. 50 is “a nice round number”. So is 60, so is 70, so is 75, so is 80, so is 90. Yet on none of those anniversaries did we feel compelled to mark August 4th rather than November 11th. If your only argument is that 100 is somehow “rounder” than the others, I’m afraid that argument IS moronic, no matter how piqued you feel about it.

  100. Appleby says:

    You’d have to be trying very hard to not see this cynical politicking for what it is. As in on a par with 1984’s doublethink level mental gymnastics. Everything else is a tangent from that main issue and point that Stu and others was getting at and getting annoyed about.
    Cheap move by Dave. For shame. Another nail in the coffin of the union and reason to vote ‘YES’.
    Good luck with the cold, Stu. It’s been going around. I had it not long ago and it was rotten.

  101. KOF says:

    There is indeed “cheap politicking” about, however there is a point to remembering the start of the Great War, in my opinion.
    The Great War signalled the beginning of a modern age for Europe (primarily). it signalled the end of the old great pan-European empires. (Though, a century later,  one still has to fall) It will be remembered across Europe. It should be remembered here too. To Scotland, the men and women who lived through this time went on to create the “modern” Labour  and Nationalist movement in Scotland. (The things which now pre-occupy our times.)This is the thing which made them question and stand up and proclaim their humanity. There will be many days in the years to come to remember the days of pain for communities up and down  the land, on the 11th of November or whatever. For “us”, the day when we became part of the great story of Europe in 1914 should be remembered. We owe it to them and to us and to those who follow us.
    “The point is, we already have a day for commemorating the dead – November 11th” To me this is the problem. Today this is regarded as the “day of the dead”, as it were. It used to be known, by those who fought it, as a day of victory, a day of peace, a day of life returned, a day of remembrance. It is only our modern pacifist/victim/overwhelmed by loss and regret mentality which views Armistice Day as a day of the dead. It meant so much more to those who were there. We must not do them a dis-service in this. We must also remember those who survived, intact or not. We must remember what they did, their victories, their pains and what they went on to do. They dreamed the dreams of our modern world, an egalitarian world, a caring world, a peaceful world. 
    The Great War was to be “the war to end all wars”. It didn’t happen, war came again, Europe was engulfed by horrors that would make many Great War veterans baulk. The start of the Great war is a pivotal moment in European, nay world , history. It must be marked. The question is how. Perhaps instead of our own national flags, maybe we should all fly EU flags that day(s)? A symbol of a shared cultural, historical and emotional  heritage, a moment of reflection on our shared European bonds? I dunno? An event for Unionist “one nation” flag waving? Certainly not! A day for Independence flag waving? certainly not, either! 

    Why a centenary commemoration, not 78, or 91, or whatever? Well, it;s a nice round number for a start, it’s even got a special word for it, “centenary”.
    A hundred years is a very human number. I remember my grandmother, who remembered her two brothers going off to the war. She remembered the one who came back, she remembered the stories of the one who did not come back, she remembered all the lads of the glen who didn’t come back. She passed those stories on to her daughter, my mother, and she passed them on to me. The men of this generation still live in the hearts of those who remember them and their stories. 
    My grandmother’s grandmother would have remembered her grandparents and their generation. They were the generation who saw the price of following a prince to ruin upon a field of blood and greed. 
    A hundred years is but a blink of the eye of remembrance. 

    I don’t know how one would handle a neutral remembrance for the start of the war, but it’s passing must be marked. There are a lot of smart people in Scotland, I believe the right answer will be found. It must be found. It deserves to be found.

    A final thought. Who commemorates the beginning of a war? The Poles did in 2009. They remember the day that changed their country forever. The Great War changed all the countries of Europe. Whether in, or out, of the EU on independence we are a part of Europe and it’s story. For us, both in Great Britain, the UK, Scotland, Ireland, Wales or Northern Ireland, we are part of this and it must be marked. 

    PS – I’ve had a shit day and am on my second bottle of strong wine. Sorry for being overtly forthright. Cheers!

  102. Galen10 says:


    Well said; at last somebody who can see past the atavistic need to scratch the itch of frothing resentment. Second bottle of strong wine or no, your sentiments display more sense than those above who can’t see through the red mist of rage that anything suggested by a pro-Unionists must ipso facto taint any idea, and make it irredeemably stupid and evil, or probably both.

    No wonder the two sides of the debate regularly seem to have all the characteristics of an Old Firm game.

    I’ve long thought that the 11th November should in fact be reinstated as a national holiday, as it still is in France, rather than being relegated to some random Sunday nearest to it. It always seemed to me the message of that was that the commemoration was less important than the profit motive.

    I simply don’t get all this inchoate rage against the concept of commemorating the start of the conflict, or the criticisms that there is nothing special about 100 years rather than 90 or 103. The anniversary is important for symbolic reasons, and as you so rightly point out the important issue is that the Scottish people and government decide how to mark that commemoration sensitively, constructively, and with an eye to learning the lessons of history.

    From the rage exhibited by some “antis” on this matter, it is evident that there is unlikely to be a meeting of the minds on the issue. The tub thumping tribalism exhibited by some… including it appears many who ought to know better… just shows how corrosive the mind set is that insists the opposition are not just wrong, but actually bad people. 

  103. Rev. Stuart Campbell says:

    Why can’t you explain why 100 years is so much more special than all the other “round number” anniversaries that it requires a change of date? What will suddenly be wrong with November 11 in 2014 compared to 2013 and 2015?

  104. Rev. Stuart Campbell says:

    “Who commemorates the beginning of a war? The Poles did in 2009.”

    Huh? I thought 70th anniversaries weren’t “round” enough and only 100 years counted. Why couldn’t they wait until 2039?

  105. Appleby says:

    And they are still deliberately avoiding the main issue to push it down this LONG-winded tangent.

  106. Galen10 says:

    @ Rev Stu and Appleby

    There’s none so blind as those that cannot see; which part don’t you understand? Any reasonable person can see the logic… it’s the same as that that dictates people will see someone reaching a 100th Birthday as more significant than their 97th or 101st. Similarly, people will see more resonance in the 700th Anniversary of Bannockburn than in the 682nd Anniversary.

    Neither I, nor KOF were avoiding the main issue, we simply disagree with the line being taken by many people on this site who are whipping themselves into a righteous frenzy about why it is not only wrong, but somehow evil and giving comfort to the enemies of independence, and that that the whole idea is moronic, (whilst of course trying to obfuscate their hysteria by insisting that it’s just the idea that’s moronic, not the people holding it… yeah, right.. the last time I heard that unconvincing piece of sophistry it was some person of faith explaining why it was right to oppose things like abortion, gay marriage, and the right of religious extremists to deny rights to others on the basis that they were hating the sin, not the sinner!).

    Perhaps when you have emerged from your Benilyn induced haze you might see things differently, but judging from the above I won’t be holding my breath. 

  107. Rev. Stuart Campbell says:

    “Neither I, nor KOF were avoiding the main issue”

    Yes you are. The issue is that if we must mark the 100th anniversary of 1914 rather than 1918, what’s wrong with doing it on November the 11th, the day specifically designed for the purpose?

    You still haven’t, in other words, addressed the core point raised in the very first sentence of the article: we don’t commemorate the day Auschwitz opened, we commemorate the day the killing ended.

  108. Morag says:

    A day of sombre reflection and prayers for peace on 4th August would be the most fitting remembrance for 2014.  I don’t think that costs £50 million.

  109. Galen10 says:

    Yes you are. The issue is that if we must mark the 100th anniversary of 1914 rather than 1918, what’s wrong with doing it on November the 11th, the day specifically designed for the purpose?
    You still haven’t, in other words, addressed the core point raised in the very first sentence of the article: we don’t commemorate the day Auschwitz opened, we commemorate the day the killing ended.

    I wouldn’t have any objection to commemorations on the 11th November, but as has been pointed out above the date that is significant for many people is the actual anniversary. Thus as already pointed out, the Poles marked the anniversary of the outbreak of the war because it was a pivotal moment in their history, as well as that of the world as a whole. The same would go for marking ANY anniversary, whether of Dunkirk, the bombing of Coventry or any other notable event.

    You have a bee in your bonnet that apparently the SOLE legitimate time to have any commemoration is the 11th November; fair enough, it’s a view, but characterising people who don’t agree with you as holding moronic views simply suggests you are either being provocative for the sake of it, or trying to close down the debate by feeding the inchoate rage exhibited by some respondents here and elsewhere that any opposition to their point of view is not just wrong, but can only EVER be seen through the lens of tub thumping British imperialism.

    Yes, of course there is a risk of that; you can’t stop some people acting that way if that’s what they want to do. We may not like it, but there IS an audience for that. The alternative narrative, which is hardly controversial, is for those who don’t want that type of commemoration to ensure it has a different character.

    I’d suggest it is you who is getting yourself into rhetorical knots with your frankly rather odd insistence that a centenary has no significance. Special pleading about having a fuzzy head due to a cold only gets you so far… it increasingly looks like obscurantism on your part, or some whacky blind spot on this particular issue.

  110. Rev. Stuart Campbell says:

    “characterising people who don’t agree with you as holding moronic views”

    No – just people expressing moronic views. People disagree with me all the time and I don’t say that to them. Your argument has been that 100 years is special because it’s a round number, but that other round numbers aren’t special for some reason. That’s pretty dumb.

  111. Galen10 says:

    Total casuistry. I’m afraid virtually every reasonable person would accept that 100 years is significant as an anniversary; whether because it is a round number, or just a big number, or because it is a century is really neither here nor there. I think your take on it is not only rather silly, but so abstruse as to be readily identifiable to the vast majority of people as odd. That being said, I wouldn’t characterise it as moronic.

    As others have pointed out, those getting in a frothing rage about this are doing so on specious grounds: it isn’t a celebration, it’s a commemoration; the outbreak of what was supposed to be the War to end all Wars was and is an extraordinarily important and defining event in our shared history; the fact that the way that commemoration is organised, and the events surrounding it MIGHT be turned by some into a flag waving jamboree doesn’t mean that the idea of commemoration is in and of itself moronic – as others have again pointed out, it is quite plausible to dream up dignified ways of marking that event, or other significant events during the 4 year period in which Scots played a significant part.

    It’s obviously pointless trying to talk you out of your view, so I’ll put it down to experience and the effects of your illness clouding your judgement, as in other respects I generally agree with you on most issues.

  112. Morag says:

    Look, it’s not about the 100 years thing.  It’s about announcing a flag-waving Brit-fest comparable to the Queen’s diamond jubilee and involving football matches and (for all I know) street parties, costing £50 million.

    A day of quiet, sombre contemplation and national prayers for peace on 4th August, with appropriate literary and artistic response to the event, is fine.  £50 million jamboree celebration is NOT.

  113. blunttrauma says:

    Anyone who comemmorates the start of a war is indescribably sick.

  114. Rev. Stuart Campbell says:

    “every reasonable person would accept that 100 years is significant as an anniversary”

    Yes it is. But for about the tenth time, you ignore the point that SO IS 50 YEARS, SO IS 60 YEARS, SO IS 70 YEARS. And so on. Yet on every other anniversary we’ve commemorated it on the same day. Why is this one so radically different? Because it’s 10 more than 90 and 25 more than 75? Don’t talk such pish.

    “it isn’t a celebration, it’s a commemoration; the outbreak of what was supposed to be the War to end all Wars was and is an extraordinarily important and defining event in our shared history”

    Yeah, because we always “commemorate” things with fucking football matches.

  115. KOF says:

    Apologies for more on this thread, however I found a couple of things which say what I’m thinking better than I can put it.
    This quote is from a forum about WW1 in response to an article on the PM’s announcement regarding WW1 commemorations in the Guardian. The article basically says much of what most people here have said.

    Here’s what the WW1 forum chap said in reply, in a letter to the Guardian.

    ” As a Guardian reader I read Seamus Milne’s article on Wednesday. I sent a letters to the editor reply. Today they published three responses – none correcting his misinterpretations. This is what I sent them…..
    “Seamus Milne is right to say that David Cameron should not use the 2012 Centenary as an excuse to play the ‘national card’. But unfortunately most of his emotive article is littered with distortions of the history of the First World War. He believes that we not threatened in August 1914 unlike 1940. So was the real possibility of the German High Seas Fleet on the Channel not a threat to our national security? He says it was not a war for liberation. but the British Army fought in France and Belgium for that very reason because France and Belgium had been occupied by an aggressor. He refers to the socialist and poets who called it right. But Owen and Sassoon were never against the war but highlighted the horror of it through their own experience. Most socialists across Europe supported their own country’s involvement. The Labour Party joined the Government in the second half of the war. He notes the ‘despicable folly of the generals’ but fails to explain that there was little alternative to the novel experience of large scale industrial warfare. In this way he subscribes to the ‘lions led by donkeys’ myth that no serious historians of the conflict would subscribe to today. In fact Haig and his generals were according to one such historian ‘lions led by tigers’ in the triumph of the Battle of the Hundred Days in 1918 which ended the war but is rarely acknowledged through the lens of two dominant words – ‘Somme’ and ‘Passchendaele’. He cites the view of Harry Patch. Many others were proud of their service including the huge crowds that turned out in London and Edinburgh on the day of Haig’s funeral. Seamus Milne should read Charles Carrington rather than Lenin and Hobsbawm. Those who came back did not believe that they had survived a futile, imperialist war and neither did the million men who came forward to join Kitchener’s Army by January 1915 see that war as folly. Seamus Milne needs to do some serious reading before he pontificates on the subject in the future”. ”
    Here’s a link to the article he was commenting on.

    No need to comment on this, just read. There’s plenty new news to comment on.

    That is all.


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