Remembrance – Blessed are the peacemakers

… for they will be called children of God

Why we need to remember them

Remembrance is upon us again. This year I will not be going to the war memorial in Greenhead Park, as I have in years when I was not working, nor did I join in with a public act of remembrance in church, only in a virtual service which was not at 11am. This year I shall remember them alone, with this blog post to mark my remembering.

The war memorial in Greenhead Park, Huddersfield

I shall not only be remembering the bravery of the fallen. War brings out a remarkable number of heroic acts in people, many of which are not officially marked. It is good to remember their bravery. But in remembering we must never glorify war. Victory is never glorious. Rather celebrate the return of peace.

War is always, always a bad option. There may be circumstances where going to war is the least bad of a number of bad options and can be justified, but it is still a bad option.

Remembrance day, when we remember the fallen in a number of conflicts, falls on Armistice Day, the day the Armistice of Compiègne was signed and hostilities on the Western Front of World War 1 came to an end. The thing to remember is that World War 1 is not a justifiable war.

The escalation from a local dispute to an international war went like this:

  • Bosnia and Herzegovina are part of Austria-Hungary but wish to be governed by Serbia instead.
  • Also before the war, both Germany and Great Britain had increased the size of their navies.
  • 28th June 1914: The Serbian nationalist group, the Black Hand assassinate Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophia in Sarajevo, Bosnia.
  • 28th July: Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia. Russia and Serbia have an alliance. Russia starts to mobilise in defence of Serbia.
  • 1st August: Germany has an alliance with Austria and declares war on Russia. France, which has an alliance with Russia is displeased.
  • 3rd August: Germany declares war on France.
  • 4th August: Germany invades neutral Belgium in order to invade France. Great Britain has alliances with both Belgium and France and declares war on Germany.
  • 6th August: Austria declares war on Russia.
  • 12th August: France and Great Britain declare war on Austria.
  • 23rd August: Japan, citing the invasion of Belgium as the reason, declares war on Germany and uses the war to expand its sphere of influence in China and the Pacific.
  • Late 1914: Germany tricks Russia into thinking they have been attacked by Turkey. Russia retaliates. Turkey enters the war allied with Germany.
  • 1915: Bulgaria, part of the Ottoman Empire enters the war on the side of Austria and Germany. Romania and Italy join on the side of France, Great Britain and Russia.
  • 1916: 36 German and Austro-Hungarian ships are in Lisbon harbour, Portugal interns the ships. Germany declares war on Portugal.
  • 1917: Along with news of the Zimmerman telegram threatening an alliance between Germany and Mexico, President Wilson asked Congress for a declaration of war against Germany. The U.S. officially entered the conflict on April 6. Also that year and soon after the October Revolution, Russia, faced with civil war, exits the war.
  • 11th November 1918: The Armistice of Compiègne is signed. Hostilities on the Western Front come to an end.
  • 28th June 1919: The treaty of Versailles is signed, in theory bringing WW1 to an end. Hostilities continue.
  • 10th January 1920: Hostilities finally come to an end.

A similar escalation of a local dispute had caused the 30 Years War in Europe in the 17th century. A small conflict between a few city-stated in what is now Germany escalated to involve countries as far apart as Spain, France and Sweden. History repeated itself, the same combination of military alliances, imperialism, nationalism, and an arms race which had been the European cause of World War 1 had happened before. The one lesson that it is important to remember from history is that people do not learn lessons from history.

That is why we need to remember. To stop this happening again.

Poppies in Flanders fields.

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