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article imageReview: ‘The War Machine’ Special

By Alexander Baron     Feb 4, 2014 in Entertainment
In the second part of this four part BBC's documentary, Jeremy Paxman covers the war from the sinking of the "Lusitania" to the first day of The Somme.
Of the 1,959 passengers and crew aboard the Lusitania, 1,195 were lost: men, women and children. That though pales into insignificance next to the first day of The Somme, and in comparison with the war in total, it was but a blip.
In addition to stoking anti-German riots, the sinking of this ship led to a massive recruitment drive.
Lord Kitchener was replaced as Secretary of State for War by David Lloyd George - who Welsh speaker or not was actually born at Manchester.
Hatred and bitterness aside, the First World War led for the first time to the mass influx of women into the workplace. Before that, women of the "lower classes" were employed in large numbers as domestic servants, a lifestyle that was truly heinous in comparison with that of even the lowliest cleaner today.
Although the suffragettes like to take the credit for this, it was the government of the day sold them the lie that they had to venture into the workplace. One of their odious tasks was the manufacture of explosives, which in its own way was every bit as dangerous as the battlefield. Female munitions workers died from poisoning, something that was kept out of the press by the censor.
Censorship was not the only war-time restriction, and some of the others were positively weird, probably none more so than the government's order to brewers: water the beer to stop workers getting drunk. Public houses were told to limit opening hours, and it became an offence to buy a drink for someone else, as one man in Southampton found out. He was fined for buying a glass of wine his own wife. She was fined. And so was the barmaid!
Then there were the conscientious objectors, and the Irish Question.
in spite of its unspeakable horror, according to Paxman, the overwhelming majority of Britons saw the war as a just cause and necessary for national survival. A hundred years on it is clear they were not only wrong, but that those who sacrificed their lives for our "national survival" died for nothing.
This episode of Britain's Great War is currently on BBC iplayer.
More about World war one, the somme, jeremy paxman, lord kitchener
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