Belfast Telegraph

Friday 18 April 2014

There is nothing about war to celebrate

The suggestion by the Western Front Association (Write Back, October 24) that certain battles in the Great War be given centennial celebrations should be consigned to the bin.

It is as ridiculous as the Prime Minister, David Cameron's intention to spend £50m of our money to celebrate the beginning of the most futile war in history.

My father, who joined the Army in August 1914, was in the Battle of the Somme and saw his boyhood friend killed by his side. He would never speak of his experiences, except once to point out to me, then a child, a group of ex-soldiers walking in file, one of them playing a harmonica, begging for pennies. "That's all they're worth now," he said.

He hated the military, never wore a poppy and thought war memorials an excuse to hide guilt. I know about the Somme only because he wrote a poem condemning war's futility.

I can only assume he joined up because of the excitement war engendered and perhaps as an escape from the harshness of pre-war conditions in the building trade.

I felt a similar excitement in 1940 when, meeting my older brother as his ship docked, I decided to go to sea myself - a decision I never regretted.

Certainly, young people should be taught about past wars and shown that war hardly ever made a bad situation better and almost always created worse problems for future generations.

OLD SAILOR

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