Tuesday, 24 June 2014

What no War?

The 1st Queen's Dragoon Guards from their home in Cardiff Castle in Wales came to Austria to mark 100 years since the outbreak of the Great War, the war known as the 1st World War and also the war to end all wars in which something like 17-20 million people died. And it must be added they died as so often is the case to no purpose. In Hitler's war which began 21 years after the war to end all wars had ended an estimated 60 million people died.

The third picture is the photo of the Kaiser Villa in the town in Bad Ischl in the Salzkammergut (the Austrian Lake District) where Franz Joseph I spent his summer holidays hunting deer and chamois and visiting his mistress. It is said by some that the Kaiser married his mistress in secret sometime between 1909 and 1912 following the murder of his wife Princess Elisabeth at a railway station in Switzerland.

The octogenarian Kaiser, under pressure from his ministers, signed the declaration of war one month after the assassination of the heir to the throne Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo.

The intended conflict, as all Austrian declared wars up to this point ( and there weren't very many as the Austrians preferred to expand their Empire by marriage) was  intended to be a limited affair and the word "it would all be over by Christmas" soon echoed all around Europe.

Unfortunately almost whole of Europe and also several nations outside of Europe decided, for reasons best known to themselves, to throw their lot in.  The result was a mega-carnage.

One infamous incident took place near Ypres in Belgium. This is where  the world's first WMD (weapon of mass destruction) was brought into play by the Germans. This event was the start of what I call "the 3 ironies":

The first irony was that it was a Jew from Breclaw who developed the chlorine gas weapon and supervised its use for the first time against the French on the Western Front. The second irony was that this enthusiastic pro-German scientist was awarded the Nobel prize despite having fled to Switzerland to avoid justice. The third irony was that he died before he could see how poison gas could be used to kill millions of his fellow Jews.

The visit of the Welsh to Austria was summed up for me by the choice of a piece of music; The World in Union. 

I spoke to some people close by about the music and I think the message was lost on some of the so-called intellectuals. Maybe the proletariat got it. We can only hope so.

Tonight in a TV Special the Austrian president and the Russian president talked about Ukraine. They answered questions from the media. There was a lot at stake financially. A big topic was the South Stream Gas Pipeline. At these events it might be better if you or I could ask the questions I often think.


  1. The trouble is Gwil, that as I age I begin to bury my head in the sand. There are so many issues. wars. famines etc. that I just cannot worry about them all. Why can't we all live in peace? Part of the problem is usually money somewhere down the line.

  2. Sadly it will be a long long long long long time until we all learn how to be nice to each other. It will not be in our lifetimes Pat.

  3. In the UK media I've noticed people talking more and more about the "Great" War as opposed to WWI. There is a tendency at the moment to try and "rehabilitate" it. I was brought up to think it was an avoidable thing all countries involved in it should humbly learn from. As Wilfred Owen said, “Suffer dishonour and disgrace, but never resort to arms. Be bullied, be outraged, be killed – but do not kill“.

  4. Thanks sackerson, I have a copy of Christopher Clark's book The Sleepwalkers which I've just started reading. For Professor Clark 'the statesmen of 1914 were "sleepwalkers, watchful but unseeing, haunted by dreams, yet blind to the reality of the horror they were about to bring into the world" ' to quote from the jacket.


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