do not mention the war

The Modern Battlefield

In History on May 13, 2016 at 08:00

“Perhaps the most extraordinary thing about a modern battlefield is the desolation and emptiness of it all … one cannot emphasise too much. Nothing is to be seen of war or soldiers – only the split and shattered trees and the burst of an occasional shell reveal anything of the truth. One can look for miles and see no human being. But in those miles of country lurk (like moles or rats, it seems) thousands, even hundreds of thousands of men, planning against each other perpetually some new device of death. Never showing themselves, they launch at each other bullet, bomb, aerial torpedo and shell. And somewhere too (on the German side we know of their existence opposite us) are the little cylinders of gas, waiting only for the moment to spit forth their nauseous and destroying fumes. And yet the landscape shows nothing of all this – nothing but a few shattered trees and three or four lines of earth and sandbags, these and the ruins of towns and villages are the only signs of war anywere visible. The glamour of red coats – the martial tunes of flag and drum – aide-de-camps scurrying hither and thither on splendid chargers – lances glittering and swords flashing – how different the old wars must have been!

This was the observation by Harold Macmillan in a letter to his mother. The letter was dated May 13, 1916 just weeks before the Battle of the Somme begun where he was severely injured. It was a very precise descrition of the battle during the Great War. The inhumanity, the brutality, the continuing of the fighting at all costs.

After the Second World War he became Prime Minister and famous for his ‘never had it so good’ speech.


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