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article imageReview: ‘War Comes to Britain’ Special

By Alexander Baron     Jan 29, 2014 in Entertainment
This year is the centenary of the start of the Great War. This is one of many programmes worldwide that explore the suffering and the folly.
War Comes to Britain is the first episode of a four part series, Britain's Great War, presented by the BBC's Jeremy Paxman. As might be expected, this first episode and doubtless the next three contain(s) much archive footage, but the Beeb have come up with some real treasures.
Although there are no longer any survivors from that terrible conflict left, Paxman speaks to a woman of a hundred and five who recalls the day the Germans raided the coastal town of Hartlepool.
The Redheugh Gardens War Memorial at Hartlepool.
The Redheugh Gardens War Memorial at Hartlepool.
Creative Commons
The Zeppelin raids also get a mention, although not the death in London of American ex-patriat Lena Guilbert Ford, who wrote the lyrics to Keep The Home Fires Burning.
Anyone studying the history of this dark period will recall the jingoism and false optimism that swept the country, but lesser known is the anti-war movement. We meet here anti-war activist James Keir Hardie, a man who called himself a socialist when socialism was not synonymous with collectivism but stood instead for fair treatment for the blue collar worker, especially those who laboured down the mines, at a time when the conditions of the masses were indescribably hard.
The programme covers too the anti-German propaganda of the day. Check out the book Falsehood In War-Time by the MP Arthur Ponsonby for a greater insight.
When this series and the centenary remembrances are over, what will we have learned from it all? The ongoing Syrian conflict and the existence of organisations like Stop-The-War answer that question: not a lot.
There is though one question this programme has not asked, and which the series will not address. How could Britain afford to fight the war, much less win it? Although at times supplies were short, and soldiers trained with broom handles in lieu of weapons, the money to oil the cogs of the war machine on both sides was produced out of thin air; money was literally no object, and yet a decade after "the war to end all wars" when there was peace throughout the world, a Great Depression swept across the globe. How can governments always find money for war but not for peace? Answers on a postcard to the Social Credit Secretariat.
More about jeremy paxman, World war one, zeppelin raids, black propaganda, james keir hardie
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