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Oh, what a lovely war

Posted on February 09, 2013 by

Remember when some of us made a bit of a fuss about the epically tasteless plans for the 100th anniversary of the start of World War 1, and were angrily told by various indignant British nationalists that the planned events were a “commemoration, not a celebration”? Turns out you can’t keep the truth down for long.


Astonishingly, the government even wheeled out some unbelievable numbnuts of a defence minister who offered up the following quote to describe this great sporting showpiece in which we will again be encouraged to see the Germans as our enemies:

“A no-brainer in terms of an event that is going to reach part of the community that perhaps might not get terribly entrenched into this”

Yep. He really said “entrenched”. Still, we agree with the first three words.

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47 to “Oh, what a lovely war”

  1. Juteman says:

    All dying empires look back to the past.

  2. Doonfooter says:

    Utterley appalled by this – I thought it was a sick joke a few months ago which had rightly been relegated to the daft ideas bin but no up it pops once again! Will we now have to go through an Olympic style football row to find out which one of the home nations will face the Hun? If this is for real the SFA should denounce it as the shameless,tastless nonsense it is and have nothing to do with it.

  3. Sandy Miller says:

    The sheer arrogance, consult the Fa  what Fa.  The chrstmas truce mainly involved Scottis French and German soldiers

  4. Sandy Miller says:

    A senior Irish officer said of WW1  we Irish know we are cannon fodder the Scots don’t see it

  5. Embradon says:

    I wonder if Captain Darling will be involved.

  6. Richie says:

    England/Empire 1 – 0 Germany
    All together now “Two World Wars and One World Cup!”

  7. pmcrek says:

    … and always with selective memory, not only did they try to ban mention in the press of the truces back in the UK they did everything they could to stop them, issuing strict orders, rotating troops and ordering artillery bombardments every Christmas Eve

  8. Sunshine on Crieff says:

    We should commemorate the ending of the war, not celebrate its start. Even then it was merely a break in the hostilities lasting a couple of decades (I seem to remember someone saying that WW1 and WW2 were actually one war separated by a very long ceasefire).

    If we are to celebrate anything it should be the post-war period that finally brought the basis for a lasting peace to Europe (with respect to those who suffered in eastern Europe and the Balkans).

  9. muttley79 says:

    If its a commemoration then there is no need to get the flags out.  If it is what some of us fear it is, a thinly disguised celebration just a few months before the referendum, then no doubt it will look like the Jubilee.  There is also probably no hope that the media (BBC presenters in particular), would fail to make a comment about the referendum.  It would then probably be excused as an emotional reaction.  If it is Alan Cochrane etc then there would not even be an apology.   

  10. Craig M says:

    My Grandfather, who was in a regiment from Glasgow, was present at several of the battles fought on the Western Front. His experiences contributed to his becoming an atheist, “when I saw them hanging from the wire, I knew there was no God.”
    In addition, he recognised that the war was largely a tiff between monarchies and he became a Republican.
    Sadly, we still have a monarchy and no republic, but who knows, perhaps a bit of quiet contemplation and a revisiting of some of the absurdities of the the war and the society that took part in it will help focus some minds at the time. 

  11. The Man in the Jar says:

    No apologies for repeating my comment on another thred.
    I beleive that per capita Scotland suffered more war dead in WW1 than any other country other than Croatia.
    Aye the “sweaty socks” make excelent cannon fodder!

  12. Nairn Clark says:

    Presumably there are still unrecovered bodies in the area, so they will literally be playing football in a graveyard. This seems rather perverse. 
    mind you, the HS2 line is apparently going to go right through the mass graves at the site of the battle of Edgecote Moor, where there may be up to 5000 burials, which haven’t been properly researched or recorded, so history isn’t an obstacle for these fools.

  13. Juteman says:

    It’s also an oportunnity for the perverse percentage of Scottish dead to be highlited in a monarchy dispute about empires?

  14. Doonfooter says:

    I clicked on the linked BBC article and also the link in the BBC piece to a Guardian article. The Guardian article has the following draft timetable of “commemorative” events:-
    4 August 2014 National church service to mark beginning of the conflict
    Christmas 2014 Christmas truce football matches in “no man’s land” of Flanders
    April 2015 Event to mark battle of Gallipoli
    1 July 2016 Event to mark the first day of the Battle of the Somme
    May/June 2016 Events to mark the naval battle of Jutland
    June/November 2017 Events to mark the battle of Passchendaele (The Third Battle of Ypres)
    August-November 2018 The last 100 days leading to Armistice Day, 11 Nov.
    So aside from the general tastelessness I don’t see this as having a major impact on the referendum. Whether we should be celebrating mechanised mass slaughter started for dubious reasons is a separate matter.

  15. The Man in the Jar says:

    Petition against “celebrating” the start of WW1
    Pleae sign and pass on!


  16. Simon says:

    I don’t know, I’m just as concerned that a Government Minister said “it’s a no brainer”.

  17. wheelingwhaup says:

    Where UK Govt got this Christmas truce fittie match from I do not know. It was in the planning long before Cameron got involved between Associations in UK Flanders & Germany. Yes Germany! Christmas is to be celebrated by folk from all sides at the site attending Church together, singing carols together presumably fraternising at Christmas as 1914 but together as a reconciliation. This is more of the sort of thing with associations working and planning together so tell that WM lot to BUT out altogether. There is nothing distasteful about the Christmas celebration which was in planning at all

  18. robbie says:

    Some light entertainment,

  19. Marcia says:

    I just get angry when I read the word ‘celebration’. The idiot who penned that should go and visit the numerous graves that are in the Western Front area and elsewhere. I don’t think the families who received notification of their kin’s death were celebrating.

  20. Vronsky says:

    Siegfried Sassoon

    The House is crammed: tier beyond tier they grin
    And cackle at the Show, while prancing ranks
    Of harlots shrill the chorus, drunk with din;
    ‘We’re sure the Kaiser loves our dear old Tanks!’

    I’d like to see a Tank come down the stalls,
    Lurching to rag-time tunes, or ‘Home, sweet Home’,
    And there’d be no more jokes in Music-halls
    To mock the riddled corpses round Bapaume.

  21. Alan MacD says:

    My thoughts exactly Nairn Clark…..
    Flanders battlefields were the scene of some of the worst atrocities mankind has ever witnessed. The ceasefire that day is poingant and brings a human factor into a situation many of us couldnt possibly fathom. Young men ( probably disobeying orders) from both sides meeting their enemy to swap gifts, chat and sometimes kick about a football is a small speckle of humanity in a hell-like environment. It was nothing short of miraculous.
    The problem that i have with the whole situation is the fact that the guns started again very shortly due to orders at Westminster and German high command…..To politicise the hundredth anniverary of such an act makes my blood fucking boil! 
    Sign that petition

  22. The Man in the Jar says:

    The great John MacClean once said in regards to WW1
    “The trouble with the bayonet is that it is a weapon with a working man at both ends”

  23. Boorach says:

    My compliments to the Scottish Government for their decision to mark the outbreak of the war by allocating £1m for the refurbishment of all the war memorials around the country.
    A sympathetic and infinitely more tasteful way to honour those who fell and mark the centenary of that outrage against civilisation.

  24. Nairn Clark says:

    @Alan MacD. 
    Re-staging the football game is also hardly representative of what the war was about, is it? If, as the minister appears to say, this is about bringing a sense of history to people who are usually not exposed to it, won’t it then leave them thinking that World War I was that one where they all played football, and that’s about it?
    if people aren’t interested in history, don’t try and bastardize the facts to fit what you think they might be interested in. That doesn’t do either side any favours.

  25. Vronsky says:

    @The Man in the Jar
    Love that MacLean quote.

  26. muttley79 says:

    More than anything I think it sounds tacky and banal.  Sure there was a football game at Christmas 1914.  But lets be honest, this was the start of four years of absolute misery, unprecedented carnage, and a horrific casualty rate.  There is no point in trying to gloss over the realities of it.   

  27. Finn177 says:

    I wonder why David Cameron hasn’t thought of a celebration of the bicentenary of the siege of Fort McHenry during the battle of Baltimore in September 1814? This was a somewhat inconclusive engagement in the Anglo- American war of 1812. It was however the inspiration for that most stirring of national anthems “The Star Spangled Banner”!

  28. ianbrotherhood says:

    The post which launched Rev Stu’s appeal was called ‘Let’s Get Serious’.
    One of the ways we could do that is try to get our heads around the various dirty tricks which will surely be deployed against this movement. I’m reading a John Pilger book right now called A Secret Country, about his native Australia – some of you will already be aware of this, but I honestly had no idea what the British Govt and CIA got up to in order to scupper the growing Independence movement in Australia back in the 60s and 70s. It reads like John le Carre stuff, but, as you’d expect from Pilger, is meticulously researched. What’s most shocking is how ‘easy’ it appeared to be – destabilise, discredit, smear, and lie with a straight face. Needless to say, the bold Murdoch plays a prominent part. 

    Plus ca change, eh?
    Perhaps Rev Stu would consider a sort of book-club, a dedicated page where we can recommend relevant reading, extracts/reviews which help make sense of what we’re up against? Otherwise, they’re lost in the ever-shifting threads…just a suggestion.

  29. Peter says:

    You all seem to have forgotten that the Treaty of Versailles is one of the 14,000. So after a Yes vote we’ll have to start The Great War all over again until it’s has been ratified.

  30. Edward Andrews says:

    First of all I would like a source for
    Sandy Miller says:
    9 February, 2013 at 5:13 pm

    A senior Irish officer said of WW1  we Irish know we are cannon fodder the Scots don’t see it
     It doesn’t sound right. It may be true, but before I quote it I would like to know that it was actually said. (The ones from the UVF wouldn’t have said it as they had to support the flag, and the ones form the Irish Volunteers would hardly have said it as they were being written out of history by their own side.) Someone should have said it and I hop[e that there is a source.
     The big problem is that the way the Unionists will play it you will appear churlish not to support it. Revisionist history has to some extent rehabilitated Haig, and teh development of folk history has to some extent localised history so people will not see the whole thing as the obscenity that it is.
     Fortunately we will only have the beginning and the retreat from Mons before the Referendum so the will have the destruction of the Old Contemptables the hysteria about the Kitchener recruitment and nothing else. A lot of Scots died on the way back from Mons and with a bit of historical imagination we can demonstrate this.

  31. Vronsky says:

    “just a suggestion”

    A good suggestion.  We don’t need to re-invent the wheel.  Other people have been here before us, trying to get rid of an imperial presence.  Franz Fanon’s ‘Wretched of the Earth’ surely has to be up there as an important analysis of the imperial method. ‘Too wee, too poor, too stupid ‘ wasn’t a strategy invented by the English for Scottish purposes, and it isn’t owned by the English. French, Belgians, Portuguese, Spanish, Germans – on an on – they all used it. The assumption of imperial superiority and contempt for the culture of colonies goes back to Roman times, and beyond.

    Tacitus (in ‘Agricola’: also recommended)  reports on the unruly Britons who will not subject to Roman rule.  They say: “We have already taken the hardest step; we are thinking*.”  That’s where we are at the moment.

    * My translation of ‘deliberare’.  I don’t like ‘deliberating’ as it sounds like ‘de-liberating’.

    Got to rush now for ‘Spiral’.  Mark Curtis’ ‘Unpeople’ maybe in there too.  Night all.

  32. Morag says:

    It’ll be fine.  If we vote Yes next year, the two world wars will never have happened!

    Sorry, but this one really is fall-down funny.

  33. ianbrotherhood says:

    @Vronsky –
    Cheers. Just like that – two great suggestions. Curtis I’d heard of, but not that book.  Fanon’s Wretched of the Earth is a newbie for me, got the gist via Wiki, and then it’s just a click to get the intro by Jean Paul Sartre. Going to Amazon, they’ll have in-depth reviews of both.
    Here’s another one – anybody read The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov? I’m sure it someone here who referred to it, so I got an E-bay copy for £2, took almost a month to read it in small chunks, and am none the wiser. The guy’s work was banned in Stalinist Russia so it’s obviously subversive/allegorical in some way, but I’m Friared if I can work out why. 
    So it goes…

  34. Dal Riata says:

    The Guardian has an article on this subject:

    50 million quid set aside for the “commemorations”?! …  FFS!

  35. the rough bounds says:

    @the man in the jar.
    Petition signed and passed on to fifteen others.

  36. DJ says:

    For once I disagree with you Rev. Celebrating the start of a war is indeed appauling, however recognising the human element of soldiers ordered to shoot and kill each other, who are able to recogise the enemy as human beigns and play football together is something I think should be celebrated.

    I’m not a pacifist, but unlike our ex PM I do believe war should be the last resort with all stones unturned. This to me is apositive story. 

  37. Rev Stu, 
    I’ve been thinking. Your aim is to spread a big dose of reality into the debate and spread the word to No and Don’t know voters. ? The more people reading, the more the message is getting across. 
    Your blog is unique, I honestly believe that it’s contribution to the debate (and some others) will be the difference between winning and losing. Therefore it is essential to be read as widely as possible. Should the aim be to market your blog in areas where it is possible more readers could be ‘recruited’. The marketing could take the form of paid for advertising online to co-incident with a concentrated campaign of active promotion by us all in as many online and real world locations as possible. 
    You have probably had similar thoughts yourself so let us know what we can do to help spread the word. There must be marketing people reading your blog that could help.

  38. KOF says:

    If I am ever old
    If I am ever old and grey
    I’ll call the children from their play
    to cluster round my chair; 
    and tell them tales about the war
    and see their chubby faces stare.
    Then, after they have run away
    I’ll chuckle o’er the tales I’ve told
    Then light my pipe –
    and maybe pray

    For if the children at their play
    were told the truth, we’d rue the day; 
    they’d over soon be old; 
    they’d know the ugliness of war
    by some loquacious veteran told.
    So let them laugh and gambol gay
    and revel in the tales they’ve heard
    While I look on
    as best I may

    William Richard Torvaney 
    19 April 1918 

  39. Appleby says:

    Truly bizarre and very tasteless. All the more ridiculous considering everyone rushing to defend it last time, claiming it wasn’t a “celebration”. Here we go again with the bunting and trestle tables.

  40. Marcia says:

    Here is an excerpt from the 1914 diary of Jim Buchan 1st Gordon Highlanders that I have given a copy which he details the retreat from Mons, La Basse and the Ist Battle of Ypres – the excerpts is La Basse:
    ‘We found out afterwards that we had advanced too far, the French not being able to keep up with us. We retired back a few miles to a place called Aubers. We dug deep trenches here with good cover. The Germans soon found out where we were however and started their guns on us. They kept this up for a couple of days without doing much execution owing to the excellent trenches which we had made, and also the fact that the Germans hadn’t got any extra big guns going.
    On the third however the Germans made a most determined night attack. Just after nightfall about two thousand Germans came up through a wood on our right where there was a gap between the Royal Scots who were on our right and us. Taking C Company who were lining the trenches next the wood completely by surprise. They drove them out of the front trench at the point of the bayonet. Major Buckenham commanding C Company thereupon ordered them to fall back upon the reserve trenches but owing to the darkness and the number of Germans they found this a very difficult matter a large part of C Company being killed, wounded or captured. Captain Gordon-Duff in command of D Company ordered his company to charge but got shot through his brain when leading them on. Owing to the suddenness of the attack things had got awful mixed up and it being so dark and everybody having their great-coats you couldn’t tell friend from foe so before you could stick your bayonet into anyone you had to examine him first to see what nationality he belonged to. Some of us managed to gather and fall back on the village of Aubers.

  41. Marcia says:

    Front cover of tomorrow’s Sunday Herald:

  42. Holebender says:

    It’ll all be over by Christmas! We’ll have voted YES by Christmas 2014, so who cares what tasteless stunts the UK government gets up to? They won’t be acting in our names by then.

  43. Albamac says:

    Re the John Maclean quote, I took a bayonet wound to my right hand.  A nice clean cut and no pain.  They’re self-sharpening, you know, which is nice. 🙂

  44. Albamac says:

    I should have said that the bayonet was mine and the wound was inflicted during the Queen’s Birthday Parade in 1964.  I didn’t know it had happened until I saw the blood trail appear on the back of someone else’s tunic as I marched off swinging my arm.
    My grandfather and my uncle were soldiers and both were killed in action in 1916.  My father was a soldier, then I took my turn as did two of my sons-in-law.  My grandson is currently serving in the Black Watch.
    All were volunteers and, as far as I’m aware, the ‘draft’ ended in the UK in 1960 but while I’m on the subject of ‘draughts’ …
    Sort of reminds me of a conversation I had in a pub, many years ago. It was one of those open discussions that everyone within earshot took part in.  Someone mentioned being in the Army and I said, “I was in the Army myself”. The immediate response from a razor-sharp, Glaswegian wit was, “That musta been lonely fur ye!”.

  45. Vronsky says:


    A Marxist friend raved about The Master and Margarita and gave me a copy.  Like you, I could make nothing of it.

    As a curiosity, there was a famous Scottish separatist of the 18th century, James Boswell.  His cause, however, was Corsican Independence and he wrote a book about it with a view to rousing British support for the Corsican cause.  He was unsuccessful: “his English readers had but the haziest ideas about Corsica gleaned from but snatches of news in the papers.”  About the same as their present knowledge of Scotland, then.

  46. BillyBigBaws says:

    Just want to thank Tattie Bogle for linking to the WW1 story in the other thread, which lead me to the Guardian piece about it. In the Guardian comments somebody posted a Jake Thackray video, so in a round-about way Tattie Bogle introduced me to Jake Thackray. Thanks for that! The song was this one, Remembrance Day, it is hilarious, sad, and very apt.

  47. BillyBigBaws says:

    “Killing Hope: US Military and CIA Interventions Since World War 2” is a useful book on the subject that ianbrotherhood mentioned. It’s worth remembering that what the Western intelligence agencies and their military-industrial mates fear most is what Kissinger called: “the threat of a good example.”

    A country turning from the neoliberal path towards greater equality and social justice (however limited and partial the turn may be) is never taken lightly by these types. And that’s before we even mention the nukes, and the likely weakening of the UK’s “force projection” capability.

    There has been only one year since WW2 when the UK was not engaged in warfare somewhere in the world, that being 1968, and I doubt the US will give up such a reliable and well-trained attack dog without some interference.

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