04 August 1914–Guns Of August–Part One

On this day in history…….Germany invades Belgium causing Great Britain to declare war on Germany. Germany had declared war on France the day before.

This became known as the Guns Of August……

What could drive a world mad to the point of wasting so many lives?

We’ll start with the facts and work back: it may make it all the easier to understand how World War One actually happened.  The events of July and early August 1914 are a classic case of “one thing led to another” – otherwise known as the treaty alliance system.

The explosive that was World War One had been long in the stockpiling; the spark was the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, in Sarajevo on 28 June 1914.  (Click here to view film footage of Ferdinand arriving at Sarajevo’s Town Hall on 28 June 1914.)

Ferdinand’s death at the hands of the Black Hand, a Serbian nationalist secret society, set in train a mindlessly mechanical series of events that culminated in the world’s first global war.

Austria-Hungary’s Reaction

Austria-Hungary’s reaction to the death of their heir (who was in any case not greatly beloved by the Emperor, Franz Josef, or his government) was three weeks in coming.  Arguing that the Serbian government was implicated in the machinations of the Black Hand (whether she was or not remains unclear, but it appears unlikely), the Austro-Hungarians opted to take the opportunity to stamp its authority upon the Serbians, crushing the nationalist movement there and cementing Austria-Hungary’s influence in the Balkans.

It did so by issuing an ultimatum to Serbia which, in the extent of its demand that the assassins be brought to justice effectively nullified Serbia’s sovereignty.  Sir Edward Grey, the British Foreign Secretary, was moved to comment that he had “never before seen one State address to another independent State a document of so formidable a character.”

Austria-Hungary’s expectation was that Serbia would reject the remarkably severe terms of the ultimatum, thereby giving her a pretext for launching a limited war against Serbia.

https://www.firstworldwar.com/origins/causes.htm

A war that cost so many lives and accomplished very little in the end.

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Passchendaele: A Worthless Exercise

On this day over 100 years ago the Third Battle For Ypres was commencing…..the date is 31July1917……this battle will go down in history as a massive waste of human life.

A description of the battle from the BBC…….

Officially known as the Third Battle of Ypres, Passchendaele became infamous not only for the scale of casualties, but also for the mud.

Ypres was the principal town within a salient (or bulge) in the British lines and the site of two previous battles: First Ypres (October-November 1914) and Second Ypres (April-May 1915). Haig had long wanted a British offensive in Flanders and, following a warning that the German blockade would soon cripple the British war effort, wanted to reach the Belgian coast to destroy the German submarine bases there. On top of this, the possibility of a Russian withdrawal from the war threatened German redeployment from the Eastern front to increase their reserve strength dramatically.

The British were further encouraged by the success of the attack on Messines Ridge on 7 June 1917. Nineteen huge mines were exploded simultaneously after they had been placed at the end of long tunnels under the German front lines. The capture of the ridge inflated Haig’s confidence and preparations began. Yet the flatness of the plain made stealth impossible: as with the Somme, the Germans knew an attack was imminent and the initial bombardment served as final warning. It lasted two weeks, with 4.5 million shells fired from 3,000 guns, but again failed to destroy the heavily fortified German positions.

The infantry attack began on 31 July. Constant shelling had churned the clay soil and smashed the drainage systems. The left wing of the attack achieved its objectives but the right wing failed completely. Within a few days, the heaviest rain for 30 years had turned the soil into a quagmire, producing thick mud that clogged up rifles and immobilised tanks. It eventually became so deep that men and horses drowned in it.

On 16 August the attack was resumed, to little effect. Stalemate reigned for another month until an improvement in the weather prompted another attack on 20 September. The Battle of Menin Road Ridge, along with the Battle of Polygon Wood on 26 September and the Battle of Broodseinde on 4 October, established British possession of the ridge east of Ypres.

Further attacks in October failed to make much progress. The eventual capture of what little remained of Passchendaele village by British and Canadian forces on 6 November finally gave Haig an excuse to call off the offensive and claim success.

However, Passchendaele village lay barely five miles beyond the starting point of his offensive. Having prophesied a decisive success, it had taken over three months, 325,000 Allied and 260,000 German casualties to do little more than make the bump of the Ypres salient somewhat larger. In Haig’s defence, the rationale for an offensive was clear and many agreed that the Germans could afford the casualties less than the Allies, who were being reinforced by America’s entry into the war. Yet Haig’s decision to continue into November remains deeply controversial and the arguments, like the battle, seem destined to go on and on.

(BBC)

If graphs and such do more to inform you then maybe this article will be more along the lines that you need……https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/0/happened-battle-passchendaele/

Then there are those that have given up the power to read for those I have a short video that could assist in their knowledge…..

As I stated earlier….a worthless loss of human life that accomplished NOTHING.

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On To Gallipoli

Not some movie about the event with Mel Gibson….but the actually event and what it meant in WW1…..

The bright idea from Winston Churchill was to inavde the peninsula of Gallipoli with the expressed purpose of defeating a weak Ottoman army and take them out of the war….this was in 1915……

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The Gallipoli Campaign of 1915-16, also known as the Battle of Gallipoli or the Dardanelles Campaign, was an unsuccessful attempt by the Allied Powers to control the sea route from Europe to Russia during World War I. The campaign began with a failed naval attack by British and French ships on the Dardanelles Straits in February-March 1915 and continued with a major land invasion of the Gallipoli Peninsula on April 25, involving British and French troops as well as divisions of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC). Lack of sufficient intelligence and knowledge of the terrain, along with a fierce Turkish resistance, hampered the success of the invasion. By mid-October, Allied forces had suffered heavy casualties and had made little headway from their initial landing sites. Evacuation began in December 1915, and was completed early the following January.

https://www.history.com/topics/world-war-i/battle-of-gallipoli-1

For those too lazy to read…a short video…..

This brilliant offensive ended in complete defeat and an utter failure…..

In 2015 during the 100 year anniversary of the military invasion….which had several “new” military techniques…like the amphibious invasion of the beaches…..

A team doing research of the military action has found something interesting….the Turks used alcohol to help their soldiers find their “will”…..

But the ongoing fieldwork by the joint Turkish-Anzac team doesn’t always bolster the official narrative. A few years ago, in the Ottoman trenches, the archaeologists discovered bottles of Bomonti beer, a popular wartime brand brewed in Constantinople. News of the find was published in Australian newspapers; the Turkish government reacted with dismay and denial. “They said, ‘Our soldiers didn’t drink beer. They drank tea,’” says Tony Sagona, a professor of archaeology at the University of Melbourne who leads the Australia-New Zealand team at Gallipoli. Turkish officials insisted that the bottles belonged to German officers who often fought alongside Turkish conscripts and put subtle pressure on the team leaders to back up that version of events. “I told them that the evidence is inconclusive,” says Mithat Atabay, leader of the project and a history professor at March 18 University in Canakkale, across the Dardanelles from Gallipoli. Drinking alcohol was a normal activity in the Ottoman Empire, he points out, “a way for young men to find their freedom.” It perhaps offered a small bit of comfort for men marooned in one of history’s bloodiest battlefields.    

https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/new-view-battle-gallipoli-one-bloodiest-conflicts-world-war-i-180953975/

History is amazing……the things we can learn……

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The First Code Talkers

Today is the 5th of May….a day of celebration for those of Mexican descent…..

Not the only thing that occurred on this day.

History records that the first code talkers enlisted on this day in 1942…..but actually the very first code talkers were used in World War One…..1918 to be exact.

When US military codes kept being broken by the Germans in WW1 a Native American tribe came to the rescue. They just spoke their own language – which baffled the enemy – and paved the way for other Native American “code talkers” in WW2.

It’s an irony that probably didn’t go unnoticed by Choctaw soldiers fighting in World War One. While the tribe’s children were being whipped for speaking in their native tongue at schools back home in Oklahoma, on the battlefields of France the Native American language was the much-needed answer to a very big problem.

In the autumn of 1918, US troops were involved in the Meuse-Argonne Offensive on the Western Front. It was one of the largest frontline commitments of American soldiers in WW1, but communications in the field were compromised. The Germans had successfully tapped telephone lines, were deciphering codes and repeatedly capturing runners sent out to deliver messages directly.

“It was a huge problem and they couldn’t figure out a way around it,” says Matt Reed, curator of American Indian Collections at the Oklahoma History Center, the headquarters of the Oklahoma Historical Society.

The solution was stumbled upon by chance, an overheard conversation between two Choctaw soldiers in the 142nd Infantry Regiment. The pair were chatting in camp when a captain walked by and asked what language they were speaking. Realising the potential for communication, he then asked if there were other speakers among the troops. The men knew of Choctaw soldiers at company headquarters. Using a field telephone the captain got the men to deliver a message in their native tongue which their colleagues quickly translated back into English. The Choctaw Telephone Squad was born and so was code talking.

https://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-26963624

I do not want to take anything away from the code talkers in World War Two….it is that they were just carrying on a fine tradition of their fellow NAs….that started in World War One.

On this day 05 May 1942……

On May 5, 1942, 29 men arrived at Recruit Depot San Diego for basic training in the Marine Corps. They would go on to develop and implement an unbreakable code that was used across the Pacific theater of World War II — one which helped mask the movements of American forces from Guadalcanal, to Tarawa, Peleliu, and onward to Iwo Jima. 

These men were the first of the Navajo Code Talkers.

However, according to a Facebook post by the Southern Navajo Nation News, it was on this day, 78 years ago that they swore the oath of enlistment.

https://taskandpurpose.com/history/navajo-code-talkers-enlistment-date

Our hats go off to these brave men and offer a well deserved ‘thank you’….

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World War One–How It Started

The war that most Americans seem to ignore most times is that of World War One…..

The most common and popular reason for the start of WW1 was the assassination of Archduke and his wife……but it all began many years before that event in 1905 and not in the Balkans but North Africa.

The major European powers began to flex their muscle……

The First Moroccan Crisis is seen as one of the long term causes of World War One as it led to a breakdown in trust between the major European powers. Morocco became the centre of the world’s attention between 1905 and 1906 and the crisis clearly indicated that Germany’s relation with France was at best fragile.

In 1905 Morocco was one of the few African states not occupied by a European power. It had been ruled by Sultan Moulay al Hasan from 1873 to 1894 and he had carefully played off one European power against another to such an extent that in 1880 Morocco had been given what amounted to a guarantee of independence by the Madrid Convention. The Sultan was succeeded by Abdul Aziz who proved to be a weak ruler. He lost control over the Berber people in the Atlas Mountains and they fought to assert what they believed to be their rights. The Berbers were so successful that by 1903, Fez, the capital, was under attack and Aziz controlled only a small part of the country.

The First Moroccan Crisis

And that was not the end of the muscle flexing exercises by the European powers……1911……was 1905 all over again….

The Morocco crisis of 1911 arose out of the dispatch of the German gunboat Panther to Agadir on July 1. The ostensible ground for this action was the request of German firms in Agadir for protection in the disordered state of the country. But inasmuch as there were no German subjects at Agadir and the port was not open to Europeans, it was clear that the real motive was a desire to reopen the whole question. The German Government resented the complete failure of the convention of 1899, and determined now, by a show of force, to prevent a further French penetration unless France would negotiate for a final settlement of the problem.

It is highly probable that Germany hoped to break up the Triple Entente. It is also probable that at the beginning of the affair Germany expected to obtain part of Morocco for itself, counting upon the known military weakness of France and the confusion in England produced by the struggle over the House of Lords to prevent serious opposition.

https://www.mtholyoke.edu/acad/intrel/boshtml/bos137.htm

Further reading for those interested in this lesser known action as a prequel to WW1……https://www.britannica.com/event/Moroccan-crises

As a closing thought….why did the US enter into WW1?

In August, 1914 the United States declared its neutrality in the war then engulfing Europe. President Woodrow Wilson, reflecting the views of much of the nation, announced that his country would be “impartial in thought as well as in action”. But this stance soon came under pressure, as the impact of events across the Atlantic were felt in the US. By 1917 isolation had become untenable. In April, Wilson sought the approval of Congress to go to war. Several key factors played a part in this change of course.

5 Reasons the United States Entered the First World War

For me it was all about the money and the prestige once the war was finished.

War is always about the money….then as now!

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The Last Time We Saw A Pandemic

To try and help my readers that are stuck at home I offer a small history class….(eye rolls allowed)……

Let’s begin with the Spanish Flu epidemic of 1918…..

The 1918 influenza pandemic was the most severe pandemic in recent history. It was caused by an H1N1 virus with genes of avian origin. Although there is not universal consensus regarding where the virus originated, it spread worldwide during 1918-1919. In the United States, it was first identified in military personnel in spring 1918.

It is estimated that about 500 million people or one-third of the world’s population became infected with this virus. The number of deaths was estimated to be at least 50 million worldwide with about 675,000 occurring in the United States. Mortality was high in people younger than 5 years old, 20-40 years old, and 65 years and older. The high mortality in healthy people, including those in the 20-40 year age group, was a unique feature of this pandemic

https://www.cdc.gov/flu/pandemic-resources/1918-commemoration/1918-pandemic-history.htm

We hear about the world and the the response….just how badly some countries have done…especially the US…..but it would not be the first time…..

But the last time we faced a horrible pandemic was in the waning days of World War One and after…it was called the Spanish Flu…..and President Woodrow Wilson was not ready to handle this pandemic (does it sound vaguely familiar?)

The last time the United States faced a worldwide pandemic – the “Spanish flu” of 1918 and 1919 — cities rolled up the sidewalks, closed theaters, and shuttered saloons. Firemen, policemen, nurses and panicked citizens covered their faces with gauze masks.

The virulent influenza emerged in the last year of World War I, incubated in American army camps and spread overseas on troop ships. By the time the influenza finally burned itself out, over 45,000 Americans in uniform and some 600,000 American civilians were dead of the disease. It’s estimated that the Spanish flu killed 50 million worldwide.

When the crisis hit, the country was led by a president viewed by many as among the most capable of American leaders, Woodrow Wilson. A favorite of progressives, Wilson has been hailed for expanding the federal government and celebrated for his commitment to international institutions. He has regularly been in historians’ polls of the top 10 presidents, an assessment that has only slipped in recent years as Wilson’s unreconstructed racism has been publicized. Still, one would expect a skilled advocate of federal authority to have used every power of his office to confront a scourge that was killing Americans by the hundreds of thousands. Surely his response would be a model of presidential leadership.

“Frankly, I don’t think Wilson gave much attention to the flu,” John M. Cooper, emeritus professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, tells RealClearInvestigations. “From going through his papers, there just isn’t much there,” says Cooper, the dean of Wilson scholars.

“President Woodrow Wilson had been extraordinarily close-mouthed about the epidemic from the first,” writes Sandra Opdycke in “The Flu Epidemic of 1918: America’s Experience in the Global Health Crisis.” Historians “have been unable to find a single occasion on which he mentioned it in public.”

https://www.realclearinvestigations.com/articles/2020/04/08/how_woodrow_wilson_let_death_run_viral_in_the_great_war_123047.html

The Spanish Flu of 1918 should have been used as a wake up call………

The “Spanish” influenza pandemic of 1918–1919, which caused ≈50 million deaths worldwide, remains an ominous warning to public health. Many questions about its origins, its unusual epidemiologic features, and the basis of its pathogenicity remain unanswered. The public health implications of the pandemic therefore remain in doubt even as we now grapple with the feared emergence of a pandemic caused by H5N1 or other virus. However, new information about the 1918 virus is emerging, for example, sequencing of the entire genome from archival autopsy tissues. But, the viral genome alone is unlikely to provide answers to some critical questions. Understanding the 1918 pandemic and its implications for future pandemics requires careful experimentation and in-depth historical analysis.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3291398/

Above was written in 2006…..and now I ask…just what did we learn?

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Be Calm…..Avoid Crowds…..Wash Hands Often….Stay Prepared

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Those Desert Rats

World War Two in North Africa gave the world some unlikely heroes…the Desert Rats of Tobruk……

The term “Rats of Tobruk,” a moniker applied by the Nazi propagandist broadcaster William Joyce (“Lord Haw-Haw”), referred more generally to any of the Allied troops who defended Tobruk, Libya. Tobruk, a key deepwater port city, had been captured on January 22, 1941, by the Desert Rats and the 6th Australian Division as part of a major Allied offensive that saw Italian forces under Rodolfo Graziani effectively wiped out. A counteroffensive launched by Rommel in March enjoyed spectacular success, negating most of the Allied territorial gains, with the notable exception of Tobruk.

https://www.britannica.com/topic/Desert-Rats-World-War-II

Some say that the North African forces were the beginnings of the special operations forces……I disagree……

But before the “Rats” of Tobruk there were others also called the Desert Rats…..but these “Rats” were in the Great War (WW1)….

Contrary to popular belief the special forces began with the these men……

Striking where the enemy is weakest and melting away into the darkness before he can react.

• Never confronting a stronger force directly, but willing to use audacity and surprise to confound and demoralize an opponent.

• Operations driven by good intelligence, area knowledge, mobility, speed, firepower, and detailed planning executed by a few specialists with indigenous warriors…

…this is unconventional warfare.

Here is the story of one of its earliest First World War practitioners…

https://www.forces.net/stories/wwi-desert-rats-and-origins-special-forces

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Freya Stark

Sunday and my break from the dismal news of the week…..if I cannot entertain then I need to educate.

I have been given my readers a look at the women that helped mold the modern Middle East after World War One….

First was Gertrude Bell then Jane Digby…..

https://lobotero.com/2019/12/21/gertrude-bell-2/

https://lobotero.com/2019/12/28/jane-digby/

The third and final woman is that of Freya Stark…..

Raised in Italy and England by liberal-minded parents, Freya Stark already spoke several languages as a child. Riding and mountaineering were part of her education, and with her mother and grandmother as role models she developed into an unconventional woman who was as at home in elegant salons as she was able to deal with poverty and physical exertion.

In spite of her delicate and sickly constitution, Freya Stark was tough and tenacious. In 1912 she began her studies in history at Bedford College in London, but broke them off with the onset of the First World War, when she left for Bologna to work as a nurse.

She had problems with self-esteem, feeling awkward and unattractive because she had to wear clothes tailored by her mother. Later in life, when she had her own money, she was known for her elegant and extravagant clothes/outfits.

Her engagement to a physician from Bologna was short-lived. Shocked, Freya moved to London, where for a time she worked as a censor of international correspondence – good preparation for her later collaboration with the Ministry of Information in London where she would be employed as an expert on the Middle East during the Second World War.

https://www.fembio.org/english/biography.php/woman/biography/freya-stark/

To help my readers learn about this fascinating women I found a couple of short videos……

This one is longer but a good look at the life of an interesting woman……

And finally……

Women made a difference in the Middle East as the First World War ended….for the good or the bad…they made a difference….something that cannot be said about the US which pretended that they were solidly behind the idea of self-determination for all people.

I hope this short series helped my reader learn about the courage and the fortitude of these women.

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The Ghost Of Henry Cabot Lodge

Who?

US foreign policy nerds know the name…..a GOP senator from Massachusetts….over 100 years ago……but that is not the topic here regardless the title.

This is actually about the days after WW1 when Wilson offered up his 14 points to include the League of Nations…..

Summary of the Fourteen Points

  1. No more secret agreements between countries. Diplomacy shall be open to the world.
  2. International seas shall be free to navigate during peace and war.
  3. There shall be free trade between the countries who accept the peace.
  4. There shall be a worldwide reduction in weapons and armies by all countries.
  5. Colonial claims over land and regions will be fair.
  6. Russia will be allowed to determine its own form of government. All German troops will leave Russian soil.
  7. German troops will evacuate Belgium and Belgium will be an independent country.
  8. France will regain all territory including the disputed land of Alsace-Lorraine.
  9. The borders of Italy will be established such that all Italians will be within the country of Italy.
  10. Austria-Hungary will be allowed to continue to be an independent country.
  11. The Central Powers will evacuate Serbia, Montenegro, and Romania leaving them as independent countries.
  12. The Turkish people of the Ottoman Empire will have their own country. Other nationalities under the Ottoman rule will also have security.
  13. Poland shall be an independent country.
  14. A League of Nations will be formed that protects the independence of all countries no matter how big or small.

This is where Lodge enters the picture…..Republican Congressman from MassachusettsHenry Cabot Lodge led a battle against the treaty. Lodge believed both the treaty and the League undercut U.S. autonomy in international matters.

The idea of a League of Nations that could head off any chances of another world war…..Congress did not ratify the treaty, and the United States refused to take part in the League of Nations.

All that background leads to the guts of the post…..

The world that Pres. Wilson envisioned is coming to a close…..

Liberal internationalists insist that American engagement abroad be on liberal or Wilsonian terms. But the Wilsonian internationalist vision, especially in its post–Cold War iteration, contains some very serious flaws that helped lead to Donald Trump’s election in the first place.

The first U.S. liberal internationalist wave developed during and immediately after World War !. Woodrow Wilson’s vision was that U.S. entry into war against the Kaiser’s Germany would usher in a new world order characterized by global democratic government, economic interdependence, mutual disarmament, and collective security. This last feature, in particular, was to be secured through a new League of Nations, in which every member state would promise to protect the independence of every other state by force if necessary.

https://nationalinterest.org/feature/end-wilsonian-century-78426

I guess I can be said to hold Wilsonian beliefs in international relations…..Americans have generally seen the principles and objectives proclaimed by President Woodrow Wilson during the First World War as having continued relevance for United States foreign policy. However, they have often differed over their application to specific situations, particularly because there is likely to be a tension between a drive to establish democratic values across the globe and commitment to a universal system of collective security. Rather than seeking a pure, abstract definition of ‘Wilsonianism’, it is more illuminating to examine its origins and evolution in relation to the development of American foreign policy over the years. Tracing this historical process reveals that Wilson committed himself to a postwar league of nations during the period of American neutrality, but it was only as the United States became a belligerent that the spread of democratic government became a policy objective, and then only in a partial and qualified way. A similar pattern has been discernible in subsequent decades. It has been during conflicts, or the run-up to them, that the more ideological and revisionist aspects of Wilsonian principles have come to the fore, whereas it has been in the aftermath of conflicts that there has been the greatest interest in the potentialities of a universal collective security organization. There has also been a broad shift of emphasis over time. As confidence in America’s power position has grown, the core of Wilson’s legacy has more often come to be seen as the promotion of democracy rather than the strengthening of international institutions. The persistence of both themes may be seen as reflecting basic and enduring elements of the policy-making context—on the one hand, the interests of the United States as a status quo power, and on the other, the demands of domestic American opinion.

I still firmly believe that world problems can be solved with diplomacy and mediation……wars should be the last resort not the first thought.

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What If Archduke Ferdinand Had Survived?

Last year we celebrated the 100 year anniversary of the end of the Great War, World War One…..

As a history buff I am always interested in this war because it was the birth place of the world we live in today.

The War began when Archduke Ferdinand of the Austro-Hungarian Empire was assassinated in Serbia in 1914…and as I like to do….a “what if”……

What if the person that started the war had not died in Serbia in 1914……

World War One was a tragedy with particularly Austrian roots, sparked by the assassination of the heir to the throne, Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo in 1914. But could the war have been avoided if he had not been killed? And would the Austro-Hungarian Empire have survived?

Those are the questions that have been posed at a conference at the Diplomatic Academy in Vienna, which has been training diplomats since 1754.

For at least one person at the conference, the “what if?” question was personal. Maria Camilla Habsburg Lothringen, a descendant of Austria’s former royal family, says the scenario is “quite intriguing” and would have changed her family’s fate.

“We would maybe have a different position here in Austria. Maybe we would have more possessions and more responsibility in our functions.”

However she says the thought of royal responsibilities and the lack of personal freedom makes her a little “uptight”. And the war, she says, is clearly about far more than just the fate of her own family.

“World War One was such a dramatic occasion. To look back at the past and ask what went wrong and learn out of that is a very important thing.”

https://www.bbc.com/news/blogs-eu-29991018

Think if the war had been avoided….think of all the millions that would have lived to old age……think about the world we may have had to live in today.

Any thoughts to share?

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