aka the First World War
One hundred years ago, on the very first Remembrance Day, 11 November 1919, the Daily Herald, a socialist newspaper, published this article on its front page.
As 1919 began, working-class people in Britain and many other countries looked forward to leaving the Great War behind them and rebuilding their lives.
The ‘Great War’ was finally over. When it had begun in August 1914, the British government predicted that it would be won by Christmas, but it had dragged on for four more years, with dreadful suffering and loss of life. In 1916, Britain began conscripting its men to fight.
11 November 1918 had been merely an armistice. The war would not be officially over until peace terms had been negotiated.
Once the Military Service Act come into force in 1916, men aged 18-41 had to apply to a Military Tribunal if they believed that they had a reason not to be drafted. The majority had health, work or family reasons, but 2% were Conscientious Objectors (COs): men who objected to military service because they objected to war.
From its declaration of war in 1914, Britain’s ruling class appealed to patriotism to boost its support and its military recruitment. By 1916 both were flagging. On the pages of socialist newspaper The Herald, poets used verse to question both nationalism and the war’s aims. When the government asked men to fight for King and Country, was it shielding its true motives?