Will we ever get the whole story of the Great War?

15th November 2013 at 00:00

I am not in complete agreement with your attempt at a re-evaluation of the First World War. However, I agree that we should refer back to first-hand accounts of the conflict and I urge your author to read the diaries of Cyril Helm (available on the Imperial War Museum's website). These would swiftly contradict the astonishing view that life for many servicemen on the Western Front was akin to a holiday camp. Dr Helm's opinion just of the early days of the war was that "hell would be a tame word to use to describe what we went through" and he was a medical orderly behind the lines.

Any sensible, thoughtful commentator would surely be with Brian Eno. The First World War was a disaster, first because it stemmed from the ignorance, suspicion, fear and complacency of the major European powers in the decades prior to 1914, brought about by their isolationism, incompetence and arrogance; and, second, because of the wholly inadequate and inexcusable response of the same powers, and the US, in the aftermath of the conflict, which led only 20 years later to the Second World War. Those are the lessons we need to learn and remember during any forthcoming commemorations.

Robert Verrill, Barnet, Hertfordshire.

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