Interest and debate surrounding the World War One Centenary is growing day by day, and various historians, politicians and public figures have been putting their varying opinions across about the commemorations, and the conflict in general.
Now, historian, Dan Snow, has joined the debate and written a BBC article in which he states that much of what we think is true about the Great War is actually wrong.
He writes: “By setting it apart as uniquely awful we are blinding ourselves to the reality of not just WW1 but war in general.
“We are also in danger of belittling the experience of soldiers and civilians caught up in countless other appalling conflicts throughout history and the present day. Although more Britons died in WWI than any other conflict, the bloodiest war in our history relative to population size is the Civil War which raged in the mid-17th Century. It saw a far higher proportion of the population of the British Isles killed than the less than two per cent who died in WWI. By contrast around four per cent of the population of England and Wales, and considerably more than that in Scotland and Ireland, are thought to have been killed in the Civil War.”
Dan also goes on to dispel the 'lions led by donkeys' saying which he says came from senior German commanders describing brave British soldiers led by incompetent old toffs from their chateaux and apparently made up by historian Alan Clark. Micheal Gove, Secretary of State for Education, has also previously written for the media about the war and the commemorations and in the Daily Mail stated that: people’s understanding of the war had been overlaid by "misrepresentations which at worst reflected 'an unhappy compulsion on the part of some to denigrate virtues such as patriotism, honour and courage".
“The war was, of course, an unspeakable tragedy, which robbed this nation of our bravest and best,” wrote Mr Gove.
Actor Tony Robinson also joined in on the debate in retaliation to Gove's comments when he suggested that 'Black Adder' and 'Oh What a Lovely War' have been used as history teaching tools —using them as an example to as why the public might have the wrong impression of the First World War. Robinson didn't agree and said that Blackadder was simply one teaching tool among many.
What's your opinion? Either way, there’s never been a better time to start researching the conflict and your ancestors who perhaps once fought in it and were really there.
Do you know enough about your ancestors who fought in the First World War?
Why not log on to Forces War Records and start your family research - there could be a war hero in your family just waiting to be discovered, and remembered…
Delve into our ‘historic documents’ library and read some of the interesting War diaries that we get sent – there’s nothing quite like reading a personal account of war, as history unfolds itself through the eyes of somebody who was actually there. Forces War Records are fortunate to receive such amazing real life war stories involving lashings of courage, and now you can read some of them – completely free of charge.
Discover interesting facts about your ancestors, become more knowledgeable about history, and reveal some of the fantastic characters involved in war…What are you waiting for?