By Nathan Barton
I’ve been there. I’ve seen it. I stood on the great Canadian memorial to their dead at Vimy Ridge, I saw the memorial with the names of 72,000+ dead whose bodies were never recovered at Thiepval. I have walked over and around the remnants of the fortifications and trenches, and the shell and mine craters. I’ve seen where 2,000+ Newfoundlanders died: one out of every five men in that colony (now province). And I have seen the rows upon rows in cemetery after cemetery, at Albert and Serre, where the white stones mark the graves of the dead. The horror and the ghostly stench was still there, 70 and 90 years after.
One century ago, today, 01 July 1916, the Battle of the Somme opened with British Imperial troops (with French Republican support) crossed the lines between trenches, following days of bombardment, to push the German Imperial invaders out of their trenches and out of France. The first day alone, of 100,000 attackers, just under 20,000 died and another 30,000+ were wounded. By the end of the battle, 4-1/2 months later (141 days), the British casualties alone were over 400,000. Total on all sides, dead, wounded, and missing in action were 1.3 million. The British gained six miles of territory. Land today worth very little, except for the lessons it can teach us. Lessons NOT being taught, or learned.
The United Kingdom is honoring their dead and wounded from a century ago, now. There are no survivors left, since all the Tommies that lived to see the end of that Great War – and the next – have gone to their reward. Likewise, the Germans and French are remembering the dead of that and many other battles of what that evil Progressive Woodrow Wilson called “the war to end all wars.”
What they are not recognizing is that, in very large part, the Battle of Somme is the reason for the Brexit vote last week, and the way it came out. As well as the reason for the hideous nature of much of Europe in 2016.
The Somme, and the rest of the battles of what we now call the First World War, did not just bury millions of soldiers and sailors and airmen, they buried the future of European civilization. They killed of the brightest and the best – bright but not smart enough to see what the warmongers, what the politicians, the merchants of death and the blind followers of those evil people were doing. They were, for the most part, physically brave. They marched and ran and crawled to their deaths with great honor and a complete lack of the moral courage to tell their young leaders and the old men, “Sir, I will not obey that order.”
And as a result, they bled most of Europe dry, and much of the British Empire. And did not just set the stage for the chaos of the Twenties and the Great Depression of the 30s, but for the even greater madness of the Second World War and the rise of the Communist and National Socialist dictatorships which ultimately lasted until the 1990s. No, they also set the stage for the pathetic nanny-state, weak-willed, intellectually- and morally-bankrupt tyranny of the European Union.
It was the brave and the bold that died, and still more that marched or rode or were carried back home to the Midlands and the Highlands and Wales and Ireland, wounded not just in body but often in mind. Leaving them as passive subjects, the pitiful remnants of once-free people who accepted subservience and slavish obedience when they or their sons (or even grandsons) were again conscripted to go and fight on foreign soil for foreign concepts and lies. Again to be winnowed and bled dry, so that the England (and yes, the France) of the 1950s were sickening shells of once great nations.
It was more than lives that were destroyed, of course. The wanton waste of war in terms of vast wealth and resources and infrastructure that was squandered in bloody combat beggared generations, and indeed the poverty created by that war and the next can still be seen in the valleys and hills of Wales and Yorkshire and East Anglia, and the streets of Edinburgh and Londonderry and Liverpool.
As Benjamin Franklin had predicted, the people of France, Germany, the Benelux, and the United Kingdom from 1950 on to today, have been willing to trade their liberty for security. And found that they have neither. The costs were and are staggering, and they are far from being paid.
The Somme led to the US involvement in the Great War, and the commitment of American troops to the Old World: a world from which they had fled, leaving behind people less willing to take risks, less able in body and soul and mind to go out on their own. But it was, thanks to the propaganda of the likes of Teddy Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson and Franklin D Roosevelt, many of the best and brightest, bravest and bold of those pioneers children, grandchildren, and even great grandchildren who went back to the muck and blood of France and Germany, and later North Africa and Italy, to die or be crippled in body and mind, and in turn come back to pollute and corrupt their own societies. (Not that the warmongers like TR and WW and FDR had not already well advanced the corruption of the States by the time the heroes of the war (or their shells) returned.)
So we too can look on the Somme as being a direct cause of the decay of American freedom and society and culture as well. We should have learned from our War between the States. Like France and Britain, many American states were bled dry, changed forever by sending their young men, generation after generation, to die or be warped. I know most about what they did to Arkansas. A generation was sacrificed in 1861-65, partially recovered in the next generation or two, but again decimated in 1917-18, and again but worse in 1941-45. Even much larger states, like New York or Pennsylvania or Texas, were trashed.
My family was fortunate. One grandfather was a pre-teen in WW1 and too valuable for his civilian occupation in WW2; my other grandfather had a narrower escape in 1918: he was drafted and arrived at the training camp in Texas on 11 NOV 1918: he never even raised his hand. And was too valuable for his profession (an oil driller) in the 1940s. And the Forty-Eight States were much larger than the states of Europe, and especially did not have the massive civilian casualties which gave us the last seventy years of crippled societies and twisted, warped economies in Europe. Bad as things are Stateside, they are but the shadow of the mess Europe has become.
It wasn’t only the Somme, of course, or even the Somme and Verdun and Konigsburg and Gallipoli and all the rest of the battlefields of the Great War; anymore than it was JUST the Battle of Britain and Operation Barbarossa, and Stalingrad and Normandy and the Bulge and Berlin. It was the Spanish Civil War and the Holocaust and Algeria and multiple generations taught in the schools and universities by elite and effete draft-dodgers first to worship and obey their human rulers and then rebel and curse not just humans but everything. Sadly lacking in the human potential that the wars had stolen, the Europeans turned to “guest workers” to keep their economies and societies going, and opened the floodgates until we see the culture, the society, being washed away by the alien cultures and religions and societies that had once doomed much of the world to ignorance and poverty.
All for the lack of liberty, of the attitude of pioneers and risk takers, of those willing to stand on their own two feet and accept responsibility for their own actions instead of bending the knee to human rulers and marching off, as ordered, to die in the bloody trenches and fields and bunkers of the Somme.
Mama’s Note: Thank you, Nathan. I’ve long wanted to write about this, but never could find the words… even after long study of history and these abominations. Yet, in spite of the truth of what you write, I have met some extraordinary people from England, Scotland, and France over my lifetime. Can’t recall ever knowing anyone from Wales, but I know a few from Armenia, Croatia and one most remarkable fellow from Finland.Two very remarkable people, a Jewish husband and wife who escaped from Soviet Russia, gave me priceless insight into how life was at that time, how much they value the real America, and fear terribly the growing police state here and across the world. They have no use for “gun control,” or government control of anything. And they are terrified that so many people simply can’t seem to understand why that government control is consistent with all of the horror and death they witnessed so long ago.
I believe there are at least a few remnants of the stalwart and self determined in every European “country,” as there are in every American “state.” It remains to be seen if they can do what is necessary to claim individual liberty for themselves and their posterity. Unfortunately, I suspect that the suffering and death toll of the past will be overshadowed by that of the future.