— Epitaph on a French War Memorial
If any question why we died,
Tell them, because our fathers lied.
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?
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.
"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."
I wanna tell a story / of world war no. 1...
: 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.
"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 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