To commemorate the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of the First World War, the team at Britain at War Magazine have produced a 132 page highly illustrated special edition.
There had never been such an outpouring of national pride, of unqualified patriotism. Every level of society embraced the cause and offered up its sons and husbands. That cause was war. Germany had to be stopped.
Few could ever have imagined the consequences of the decision to declare war on Germany. A great clash of armies was expected with one conclusive battle to decide the fate of Europe; no-one anticipated four years of global warfare that would cost the lives of millions of soldiers and civilians. It changed the world forever.
It seems hard to equate all this with the shooting of an Austrian Archduke in a city more than 1,200 miles away in a city scarcely heard of in Britain. Yet within weeks Britain and its Empire was at war.
If the rush to arms of the young men of Britain was unprecedented, it was matched by those in Australia and New Zealand and Canada. From across the Empire thousands responded to the call to arms. Soon the women too would take their place in the hospitals at home and abroad; in the factories and the fields.
As well as inducing social change, the war drove innovation. Aircraft filled the skies, super-dreadnaughts menaced the oceans, tanks rumbled across the fields; gas drifted over the trenches.
It was those trenches that stretched across northern France and Belgium, for which the First World War has become synonymous. From these Kitchener’s New Army went “over the top” to destruction during the Battle of the Somme and found themselves waterlogged at Ypres where the men were up to their necks in “muck and bullets”. Such were the conditions the soldiers often had to live and fight in, the men found expression in some of the most graphic poems ever penned. Others, just a few, whose minds could no longer take the terror, were branded cowards and were shot at dawn.
From the rugged heights upon which the British and Anzacs died at Gallipoli to the vast deserts traversed by Lawrence; from the humanity of the Christmas Truce to the humility of the Treaty of Versailles, The First World War, An Illustrated History tells it all.
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