Quotes / World War I
aka: World War One

Non-Fiction

Never again.
Epitaph on a French War Memorial

The fifteen years or so from 1809 to 1914 were a Belle Époque not only because they were prosperous and life was exceedingly attractive for those who had money and golden for those who were rich, but also because the rulers of most western countries were perhaps worried about the future, but not really frightened about the present...Yet there were considerable areas of the world in which this clearly was not the case. In these areas the years 1880 to 1914 were an era of constantly possible, of impending or even of actual revolution. Though some of these countries were to be plunged into world war, even in these 1914 is not the apparently sudden break...In some — e.g. the Ottoman Empire — the world war itself was merely one episode in a series of military conflicts which had already begun some years earlier. In others — possibly Russia and certainly the Habsburg Empire — the world war was itself largely the product of the insolubility of the problems of domestic politics...In short, for the vast area of the globe...the idea that somehow or other, but for the unforeseen and avoidable intervention of catastrophe in 1914, stability, prosperity and liberal progress would have continued, has not even the most superficial plausibility.
Eric Hobsbawm, The Age of Empire, Page 276-277/

Fiction

If any question why we died,
Tell them, because our fathers lied.
Epitaphs of the War, Rudyard Kipling

I could not dig, I dared not rob
Therefore I lied to please the mob.
Now all my lies are proved untrue
And I must face the men I slew.
What tale shall serve me here among
Mine angry and defrauded young?
— "Epitaphs of the War", Rudyard Kipling

What passing bells for these who die as cattle?
Only the monstrous anger of the guns.
Only the stuttering rifles' rapid rattle
Can patter out their hasty orisons.
No mockeries now for them; no prayers nor bells;
Nor any voice of mourning save the choirs,
The shrill, demented choirs of wailing shells,
And bugles calling for them from sad shires.
Wilfred Owen, Anthem for Doomed Youth

A knife that had traveled to France in 1917 with a boy, a boy who had been part of a boy-army ready and willing to stop the dirty hun from bayoneting babies and raping nuns, ready to show the Frenchies a thing or two in the bargain; and the boys had been machine-gunned, the boys had gotten dysentery and the killer flu, the boys had inhaled mustard gas and phosgene gas, the boys had come out of Belleau Wood looking like haunted scarecrows who had seen the face of Lord Satan himself. And it had all turned out to be for nothing; it turned out that it all had to be done over again.
Stephen King, The Dead Zone

"We are not youth any longer. We don't want to take the world by storm. We are fleeing. We fly from ourselves. From our life. We were eighteen and had begun to love life and the world; and we had to shoot it to pieces. The first bomb, the first explosion, burst in our hearts. We are cut off from activity, from striving, from progress. We believe in such things no longer, we believe in the war."
Erich Maria Remarque, All Quiet on the Western Front

I wanna tell a story / of world war no. 1...
— "The War" by Running Wild

Private Baldrick: I heard that [the war] started when a bloke called Archie Duke shot an ostrich 'cause he was hungry.
Captain Blackadder: I think you mean it started when the Archduke of Austria-Hungary got shot.
Private Baldrick: Nah, there was definitely an ostrich involved, sir.
Captain Blackadder: Well, possibly. But the real reason for the whole thing was that it was just too much effort not to have a war.
Lt. George: By Gum, this is interesting! I always loved history. The Battle of Hastings, Henry VIII and his six knives and all that!
Captain Blackadder: You see, Baldrick, in order to prevent war in Europe, two super blocs developed: us, the French and the Russians on one side; and the Germans and Austro-Hungary on the other. The idea was to have two vast, opposing armies, each acting as the other's deterrent. That way, there could never be a war.
Private Baldrick: But, this is sort of a war, isn't it, sir?
Captain Blackadder: Yes, that's right. There was a tiny flaw in the plan.
Lt. George: What was that, sir?
Captain Blackadder: It was bollocks.
Blackadder Goes Forth

"The lights are going out all over Europe; we shall not see them lit again in our lifetime."
Sir Edward Grey, British Foreign Secretary on the eve of the war.

Son of Mine: All your little tin soldiers. But tell me sir, will they thank you?
Headmaster: I donít understand.
Son of Mine: What do you know of history, sir? What do you know of next year?
Headmaster: Youíre not making sense.
Son of Mine: 1914, sir. Because the Family has travelled far and wide looking for Mr. Smith and oh, the things we have seen! War is coming. In foreign fields, war of the whole wide world, with all your boys falling down in the mud. Do you think they will thank the man who taught them it was glorious?!

In June 1914, an Archduke of Austria was shot by a Serbian, and this then led, through nations having treaties with nations, like a line of dominoes falling, to some boys from England walking together in France on a terrible day.

In Flanders Fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead, short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders Fields.
Take Up our quarrel with the foe
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it High.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep though poppies grow
In Flanders Fields.
— "In Flanders Fields" by Canadian Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae

Calm fell. From Heaven distilled a clemency;
There was peace on earth, and silence in the sky;
Some could, some could not, shake off misery:
The Sinister Spirit sneered: "It had to be!"
And again the Spirit of Pity whispered, "Why?"
— "And There Was a Great Calm" by Thomas Hardy (on the signing of the armistice)

Across the savage skies and through the fissures in the fields
The rumble of the engines and the trundle of the wheels
Through hell and horror trudge and yet our spirits never yield
Will they sing of these forsaken pawns of war?
Hoist the flags, hold the lines, lessons ever lost to time
Now we sing for you, departed pawns of war
Pawns of War, by Miracle of Sound (made for Battlefield 1)


Alternative Title(s): World War One

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