The war to end all wars

HMS Queen Mary, lost with 1,266 of her company.

HMS Queen Mary, lost with 1,266 of her company.

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Monday is the centenary of the beginning of the First World War, the war to end all wars as it was to be called.

‘It’ll be all over by Christmas,’ went up the hopeful cries.

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Of course, it was not and over the next four years millions of men died, not to mention the thousands of civilian men, women and children across Europe and Asia.

No doubt there will be hundreds of thousands of words written over the next few weeks and many programmes on television with commentators spouting their own theories about why it all happened.

I am hoping there will not be the same kind of memorial celebrations there were for D-Day a few weeks ago. My own opinion on that was that thousands of men died or were maimed for life on that day and all the singing and dancing was out of place.

It should have been saved for next year when we can celebrate the end of the Second World War and 70 years without world war.

As to the Great War, as it has become known, thousands of men from Portsmouth crewed Portsmouth-based ships and sailed away never to return.

Many ships were sunk with the loss of hundreds, sometimes more than a thousand, lives in a very short time.

Here’s just one incident. The battle cruiser HMS Queen Mary exploded and sank at the Battle of Jutland and took 1,266 men to a watery grave in just a few minutes. And hundreds of men from Portsmouth and the surrounding area joined the army to die in the slime and mud of Picardy.

I know many came back. Some families sent three or four sons and all returned. But others sent off the same number and all were lost.

How neighbours faced up to each other when one family lost several sons when, perhaps, the next-door neighbour, had all their boys returned, can only be imagined.

I do hope you will attend at least one of the many services being held in the city over the coming days even if you have no knowledge of any relatives dying in that war.

It was an awful time in British history and when one thinks about it, all the European countries involved had heads of state related in one way or another through Queen Victoria,

It should never really have happened at all.

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