World War 1(BBC Documentary)

World War 1(BBC Documentary)

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on the 5th of October 1915 my great-uncle leftenant Aubry Hastings of the 7th East Surry regiment was killed in France blown to pieces in his trench during the Battle of loose I grew up with his story reading the unhappy letters that he wrote submit the poppies of the battlefield along with those of a grandfather and another great-uncle who survived but this is the first time I've visited the cemetery at Fukien Libeccio where Aubrey's buried one of some 900,000 British Empire dead of the First World War almost everyone in this country shares such links with that catastrophe for our forefathers and for you look it's a funny business looking down at the last resting place of one of my own family whom I never met who died in a struggle that I've spent decades reading about its horror is not in depth but where I part company from what we might call the Black Adder take on history is to believe that it was all so futile that it didn't matter which side won in the 21st century the British people are deeply wedded to the idea that the Second World War was our good war the first or bad one but what have we stayed out what if Germany had one in my opinion the deaths of Aubrey Hastings and hundreds of thousands of his comrades were assuredly a great tragedy but they were not for nothing many British people honor the men who fought and died with a mixture of sorrow and the sense of waste a belief that no cause could have justified so horrendous a sacrifice but a hundred years after the outbreak it seems time to revisit the reasons we went to war in 1914 I want to argue that far from Britain having plunged into a bloodbath we could have stayed out of our part in the first world war was tragically necessary any exploration of why Britain had to go to war in 1914 must start on the continent of Europe the spark was ignited in the Balkans on the 28th of June when Gavrilo Princip a Bosnian Serb shot dead Archduke Franz Ferdinand heir to the Austrian throne the Empire's rulers immediately determined to exploit the outrage to justify invading neighboring Serbia where the murder weapons had come from but the Russians were Serbia's close allies and they made it plain they would fight to protect their fellow Slavs through July 1914 the great continental Parrs waited ever deeper into crisis but from the outset the key player was Germany on the 6th of July its rulers pledged the Austrians their unconditional support to smash Serbia promising to deal with Russia and its owner live France if they intervened day by day it became plainer that none of the big players would back down and thus began the countdown to the First World War some historians have argued that once it became clear that Austria and Germany were going to war with France and Russia we the British should simply have left them to get on with it stayed out but all that would have come out of a German victory was a fast forwarded version of today's European Union I don't buy that the people who are running Germany cared nothing for democracy or other people's freedoms once the shooting started it became claim that their war aims were little different from those of Hitler 35 years later excepting only the Jewish Genocide you the Reichstag dominated domestic affairs it was the Kaiser the so-called all-highest wilhelm ii who still made every key appointment and controlled decisions about war and peace phil helm was a weak man who sought to masquerade as a strong one chronically unstable and prone to violent mood swings he wasn't at heart a war monger as of course Hitler was but he loved to play at soldiers he offered threats and blandishments to other powers which he always got in the wrong order professor John role has spent a lifetime studying and writing about the Kaiser how personally influential was Kaiser Wilhelm in the decision for war Kaiser Wilhelm took over the reins from his father in 1888 and inherited Bismarck's immense power himself when he threw Bismarck out but not content with that he then went back to an almost eighteenth-century notion of monarchy in other words he insisted on ruling personally with the result he appointed all ministers all the Chancellor's all the generals all the Admirals himself personally according to his likes and dislikes he was an extremely assertive bully well it was an extraordinary situation that you had a socialist majority violently anti-militarist majority and the right type and yet exercising no influence at all really over this regime and foreign policy yeah one of the reasons I believe behind the German generals decision to go to war around about 1914 was the rising tide of democracy at home the thinking was well if we leave it too long we will not be able to get our way and do what we really need to do to make Germany great so we better go before that time comes the most powerful institution in Ville Helm's Empire and indeed in all continental Europe was the German army the Kaiser was also eager to extend his power across the seas and personally promoted the creation of a big-gun Navy this thoroughly alarmed the British who feared Germany's fleet as a threat to their global trade routes and Empire as Queen Victoria's grandson Vilhelm retained some respect for her people but he was determined that neither he nor his empire should defer to them it's almost as if he feels obliged to be more military and more masculine than any other monarch perhaps because there's always the width of Englishness about him his mother being English he was always very keen to say no no I'm not English I'm Prussian I'm extremely prescient so there's this autocratic side to him there's extreme militarism but some of it does come from England for example the love of the Navy is the idea that he has a mission to become the superpower in Europe in place of Britain he feels he has a right as leader of this new energized Germany after unification fear of Germany's might and which aspirations to dominate Europe prompted Russia and France to forge a close military alliance although Britain's government made no firm written commitment it posted an option on supporting them in the event of war many British people recoiled from the idea of joining an alliance with tsar nicholas ii whose people had been britain's enemies through the 19th century but the fears of europe's rulers that a general war would result from their rivalries caused every nation to huddle close to its friends the Germans to the Austrians the Russians to the French with the British as cautious maybes Germany's warlords were haunted by fears of Russia's growing might some of them were convinced that challenging the Tsar's armies sooner rather than later offered Germany the best chance of victory this is one of many German memorials to Prussia's 19th century military triumphs instead of perceiving big Wars as we do today as universal tragedies the kaisers generals and sometimes Wilhelm himself believed that trial by battle was an acceptable instrument of policy all Germany's leaders were insecure even paranoid about threats of home from the socialists abroad from Russia and France probably backed in a showdown by Britain in those days not many people thought seriously about economics the Kaiser and his generals counted soldiers they fail to realize that their country was achieving dominance of Europe without firing a shot through its industrial power by 1914 cemani Germans have come to believe that a European clash in arms was inevitable but their fatalism contributed mightily to bringing this about the Kaiser who was almost certainly clinically unstable was one of three men in Germany who took the key decisions which resulted in war to this day historians argue fiercely about which pulled the levers to precipitate disaster the others were the Chancellor Theobald vom bethmann-hollweg appointed by Wilhelm and general Helmuth von Moltke head of the army you knowing that Russia was committed to protect press the Austrians to hurry their invasion to preempt the Tsar this has become known as Berlin's blank check keystone of the argument that Germany was most blame worthy for the horrors that followed professor so he was strong has been studying and chronicling the war for over 30 years he agrees that Berlin took a huge gamble the Germans actively encouraged the Austrians not merely to invade Serbia but to get on and do it even more quickly than they were ready to do this partly because I think if they do it quickly you'll get away with it you'll be able to crush Serbia the available calm waters they were so quick that nobody will have time to intervene so the presumption here is speed and what Berlin is doing is constantly taking best-case advice you know will Russia stay out of this war because they're worried there'll be a revolution in Russia the best answer is that yes they will because there has been a revolution in Russia in 1905 and there might be again so they work with that assumption where it's in fact of course as ours going to be put under tremendous pressure to back South Slavs in Serbia but throughout July the one nation surely that had the power to stop this process if the Germans had said to the austrians stop do not invade Serbia there would have not been a general European war would them that's right I think they have the power to say no I mean after all the blank check is central and and the blank check is issued by Germany and Germany then seems to show remarkable insouciance as to how that check will be used you know austria-hungary still has to cash it it's austria-hungary that has to initiate war but absolutely the balance then shifts to Berlin and if any power has the capacity to stop it it's Berlin particularly at the very end of the crisis army chief of staff Helmut Volker who answered only to the Kaiser also played a pivotal role on the 28th of July vilhelm and bethmann-hollweg experienced a brief panic attack the looming war now looked far bigger and graver than they bargained for but Malka on his own initiative telegraphed the Austrians and urged them to hasten their attack the chief of staff had long argued that if Germany must face a European showdown it was better to have it before the Russians big armaments expansion program was complete at an imperial council meeting in December 1912 he's reliably reported as saying war on the sooner the better Annika mom bar is a German scholar who's written a biography of the chief of staff which emphasizes his role in the July crisis where did Mach fit into the decision for war well Moltke very much advocates war he thinks that war is inevitable in the long run he thinks that eventually Russia will become too strong to militarily powerful for Germany to defeat her and therefore he creates an atmosphere in which war seems a good solution out of a perceived problem one thing that seemed extraordinary to us about how dysfunctional the German government was in July 1914 is that here you've got Malka who's supposed to be just the head of the army and at a critical moment July the 28th he sends a telegram to Vienna to the Austrians telling them to get on with invading Serbia and it does him extraordinaire reflection of both how reckless mulkear could be and of how partly what well you're right he does send that telegram and in Vienna they end up saying well it's got a Bateman or was it in fact the Kaiser so yes you're completely right he exceeds his authority if you like by sending this telegram Germany's leadership in July 1914 was extraordinarily reckless in accepting the risk that by promoting a small Balkan war they would trigger a huge European one when he became plain that the Russians would fight rather than see Serbia go under the Germans refused to take the one step that could have prevented a general European catastrophe telling the Austrians to pull back instead they themselves prepared to mobilize against Russia and that's why I believe they deserve most blame for all that followed on the 28th of July Austria declared war on Serbia and two days later the Tsar ordered his army to mobilize Germany then issued two ultimatums one to Russia and another to France it's a lie neither was expected to accept and few of the kaisers generals wish them to Berlin then set in motion its hugely ambitious war plan designed to crush France before turning on Russia created almost a decade earlier by mockers predecessor count alfred von Schlieffen the plan required an invasion of France by way of its backdoor through neutral Belgium it was the German commitment to overrun Belgium which suddenly propelled Britain hitherto a mere spectator of the Continental drama to the forefront of the stage under a treaty signed in 1839 this country was among the guarantors of Belgium neutrality I'm one of those who still wonder whether Britain really would have come in if it hadn't been for the invasion of Belgium mohkumat is dead wrong he did he did he was in an impossible situation militarily speaking or strategically speaking because Germany is in a sense encircled by France in the West and Russia in the East and the only way he thinks he can win this war is by implementing the so called Schlieffen Plan and that plan can only work if France is defeated quickly and that means invading Belgium but interestingly in France the chief of staff similarly thinks our best chance would be to advance through Belgium but the politicians that the diplomats tell him we can't do that because of British British thoughts on their account exactly and so had Germany also respected Belgian neutrality there would have been all sorts of possibilities right at the end of July and early in August perhaps to come to a different outcome thus in the first days of August 1914 Germany prepared to invade and crush France in a campaign of 40 days before turning on Russia Europe had a war but must the British be in it would they fight basking in the balmy summer of 1914 and preoccupied by industrial turmoil and threatened Irish Civil War the British people had scant appetite for a continental conflict but liberal Prime Minister Herbert Asquith and several key cabinet colleagues were appalled by the prospect of Germany achieving dominance of Europe they doubted that Britain could merely remain a bystander while this happened one such was the Foreign Secretary Sir Edward grey who played a critical role Sir Edward grey is traditionally seen as a reticent English gentleman whose grand passions were fly-fishing and bird-watching both of which he wrote good books above but more recently he's become a focus of fierce controversy some historians claim that grey made rash secret commitments to the French which dragged us unnecessarily into war for centuries it had been a British article of faith that a balance of power which denied absolute dominance to any one nation must be maintained on the continent between 1908 and 1914 when grey was not casting a fly on bright waters he held secret talks with the French about British support in the event of a German attack the Foreign Secretary was less clever and less of a statesman than his admirers thought but the claim that he should be damned for dragging Britain into an unnecessary war doesn't stand up I suggest that gray was a realist about the difficulty indeed impossibility of Britain simply standing by doing nothing while Germany conquered Europe if the French and Russians have been beaten as they almost certainly would have been if Britain hadn't come in who can imagine a victorious Germany allowing Britain to continue ruling the waves and the world's financial system any more than Hitler would have done if Churchill had tried to strike a deal with him in 1940 nothing gray said beforehand could have deterred the Germans because they had weighed Britain's military power and discounted it the little British army seemed incapable of influencing a huge clash of continental ptosis the Royal Navy was thought irrelevant because in the kaisers gone forwards dreadnaughts have no wheels the Foreign Secretary's secret and unwritten assurances to France seemed to me to have reflected not warmongering but prudent and essential precaution in July 1914 by proposing an immediate European conference graded all that he could to avert war sir Michael Howard is Britain's most distinguished living historian he and I have spent many hours discussing the vast puzzle of 1914 and crucially whether Britain could have done more to avert disaster things Gray's proposal which they rejected out of hand to address the confrontation between austria-hungary and Serbia by having a peace conference one the contemptible proposal was it if they wanted it I mean it was absolutely typical third typical great thing to do a typical sort of liberal solution and the Germans ridiculous rejected flatly because this will remain letting down the Austrians and they were not going to let down the Austrians the world since throughout all classes in Austria it is time to finish with the Serbs if we don't finish with the Serbs they will nibble us to death this is the moment to strike the Germans no name this was a case we're not going to being in the Austrians to debate about what their future was going to be so to that extent also would say that the the Germans were responsible for not letting there be a peaceful settlement on the 2nd of August the Germans issued an ultimatum to King Albert of Belgium demanding passage for their armies he flatly refused and appealed to Britain as a guarantor of his country's neutrality thus it fell to Sir Edward grey to convince a still reluctant British Parliament of the necessity for Britain to join the war on the continent on the afternoon of the 3rd of August Gray delivered the most important speech of his life to the House of Commons by now most of the cabinet believed that Britain must fight in the name of Belgium's rights could this country great amounted stand by and watch the darris crime that ever stained human history and thus become participators in the sin he added we should I believe sacrifice our respect and good name before the world and shall not escape the most serious and grave consequences this was one of those extraordinary parliamentary occasions that changed history he persuaded much of the Liberal Party hitherto bitterly hostile to intervention now to support it as the conservative opposition already did thus on the 4th of August 1914 after Berlin rejected an ultimatum demanding its withdrawal from Belgium Britain declared war on Germany was Belgium the real reason that Britain went to war in 1914 or as some historians nowadays try to argue oh it was just a pretext that the British government really wanted to fight anyway yeah well I would tend to say it's both and it's there there are two there are two arguments here one is the security of Belgium and the absence of a dominant power on the mainland of Europe is seen as central to Britain's strategic position they can't be the equivalent in Napoleon facing Britain across the channel and dominating Britain's routes to the rest of the world the second issue is does it matter that Germany disregards its international obligations enters Belgium which is a neutral state and fails to reflect both international law and the rights of small nations and the answer is it does matter and it matters because for Britain international law and what we might now see as morality also matters but it's more fundamental than that because Britain is is an economic power of trading power a power that depends on its shipping actually international law is more than just a sense of legal or moral obligation it's also a matter of economic necessity you need to respect international law to make sure that Britain can continue to exercise the degree of leverage it does as a neutral itself well some people say now oh it was incredibly silly for Britain to get involved in this horrific experience the first world war just because of the German army marched into Belgium but actually it seems to me it was a pretty good reason for going to war it was an excellent reason for going to war and it did something which at the beginning of the July crisis seemed unimaginable to many you know a united people United the cabinet and United the people you you within days the first reports appeared in the world's newspapers describing the extraordinary brutal conduct of German troops towards the Belgian people you or in seven when the Herero and nama tribes rebelled against german colonial rule in south-west africa the kaiser soldiers killed or deliberately starved to death almost a hundred thousand native people you in Flanders the destruction of the medieval university town of Luva today rebuilt from ashes became a symbol of the excesses of the kaisers soldiers endorsed by Berlin you John we're here in the University Library Lavar what happened here well on the 25th of August there was the sound of fighting German soldiers shooting but what they claimed was a civilian insurrection round about 11 o'clock in the evening this beautiful University library was broken into by the German soldiers and deliberately set fire one young jesuit father julia had written in his notebook that he thought the Germans in burning down the library had done something as barbaric as the destruction of the Library of Alexandria in antiquity this was seized by German soldiers and he was summarily executed and by the 29th or the 30th you have to imagine Hoover as an almost empty town the population that hadn't been deported gradually straggling back in to find between 1,500 and 2,000 buildings destroyed and well over 240 of their own townspeople had been killed all armies in all walls can behave very badly one seems different about what happened in Belgium in 1914 was that it wasn't just a question of of the odd soldiers brutally murdering a few civilians they were systematically shooting them in scores and sometimes in hundreds as hostages you're quite right but what we've just described in Luva was terrible incidents and it immediately grabbed the international headlines but it was typical of something that happened across the whole invasion front in Belgium and also in eastern France and it wasn't the worst case in terms of the death rates Dino was destroyed as a town in six hundred and seventy four of its inhabitants executed a two days before cold blood in call in in cold blood in the first weeks of the war nearly six and a half thousand civilians were executed by German troops in Belgium and France Berlin claimed that they were merely exacting legitimate reprisals for resistance by civilians so-called prompt areas but John Horhn rejects this you found no evidence at all to fracture our activity to do with guerrilla activity against the John no it was apart from the odd very isolated incident but nothing which justify the German accusations which was that there had been what they caught a fox Creek a People's War a mass uprising and the Kaiser already by the 9th of August only a week into the war is accusing the king of the belgians of fermenting such an uprising it didn't happen that was the institutional response of the German generals and right up to the Kaiser that seemed striking and it does seem to say something about the character of the regime that's right because very quickly what starts out as panics and localized responses by German soldiers is immediately endorsed by the whole German command structure and then what swings into play is a series of very brutal reprisals which are justified in terms of German military doctrine as to what you do when you're faced with civilian uprising for years apologists for Germany claimed that the Belgian atrocities were figments of allied propaganda some of the stories that made headlines in 1914 for instance claims that thousands of babies were maimed by German soldiers were indeed fabrications but a big truth persists the German army behaved with systemic barbarity during its advance across Belgium and France its actions persuaded many a hitherto doubting British people that they had chosen the right side in the ghastly conflict that was unfolding some historians today claim that the British government's decision to go to war in defense of Belgium's neutrality was simply a fig leaf a pretense when really it was all simply about supporting the French against the Germans I put it a bit differently yes it's true that some key ministers wanted to fight anyway but Belgium provided a tipping point all sorts of British people who care nothing for Serbia or Russia could easily get their minds around the notion that it was outrageous that the most powerful army in Europe proposed to crushed beneath its boots a small state simply to serve the convenience of the Schlieffen Plan and wasn't that indeed a decent and honorable reason for Britain to go to war had Germany had been victorious on the continent Britain would have found itself in a desperate and lonely a predicament if the Germans had won an hour hypothesize there would have been an anglo-german war within a matter of years the fear in Griffin was that a power which unified the continent would then be in a position to challenge Britain's command of the sea if she commanded and challenged and successfully overturned Britain's command of the sea not only where we no longer have an empire we will be at the mercy of whoever commanded the whole of Europe that was what the British feared that was war they were right to fear and they were right to fear it was a substantial element in Germany led by the Kaiser who one objective was to challenge Britain as a world power to build a great Navy which would then defeat the British and Germany would then become a world power at the expense of the British so if the Germans had won the war I see no way in which they would not have used their dominance of Europe to bring the resist on so we would not have avoided a war we would only have postponed one by early September the German army had swept through Belgium and into France with Berlin believing that its victory was imminent chancellor bethmann-hollweg drew up a list of his country's demands at the peace talks they included seizing large swaths of land from both France and Russia annexing Luxembourg making Belgium and Holland vassal states the September plan as it became known was designed to secure Germany's absolute political and economic control of Europe but in the second week of September the French army achieved a historic victory in the Battle of the Marne driving back the Germans from the gates of Paris what followed in the autumn of 1914 finally wrecked Germany's dream of swift victory it also witnessed the first big and seriously bloody battle of the war for the British in October the British Expeditionary Force marched towards the old Belgian cloth town of ich wipers as millions of British soldiers came to know it they arrived there just in time to clash head-on with a massive enemy offensive the last great German effort to win the war by Christmas what took place in the five weeks of battle around eeep set the pattern for the vision of the First World War which has been etched into our national culture ever since former soldier Clive Harris today guides visitors to the battlefields of the first world war and especially those around eat he's brought me to polygon wood one of the most famous or notorious landmarks of the desperate struggle in 1914 it's right at the edge of the Menem Road which runs back towards each which is about five six kilometers behind us now it's it's right at the center of the battlefield as well so from the moment the Germans attack us on the 18th of October right through to the last knockings our first leaps on the limb for November this this wood here and the two woods just to the rear of us were key as part of the batteries where other Germans made their last huge push of 1914 to try and win the war before course they did yeah they now realize that they needed to knock us out at the war and by doing so they needed to capture the Channel ports and therefore they moved away from the French life and plan to a degree and the capture of each this is the last thing other side of each there is no defenses it was our last chance there is nothing behind us but the Channel ports and there were battles all over the shop small battles they were all over the woods they were yeah we tend to think that the British line would be a continual line when in fact it was more a series of outposts and quite often units found themselves isolated and having to make small unit charges into Germans as opposed to a larger cohesive defense here in western belgium the war of maneuver ranging across thousands of square miles that have been waged through the late summer of 1914 gave way to a stalemate across the Western Front the technology of defense and destruction artillery and machine guns had achieved a dominance which confounded the generals of both sides but each cavalryman's saw their horses almost for the last time before being obliged to join a death grapple on foot over here this is the site of the Horse Guards memorial and it marks an area where the Horse Guards fighters infantry pretty much on this spot we're just on there so they came charging up dismounted yeah initially but this actual spots where one of the machine gun positions because it's a great arc of fire over advance in enemy but what seems important here Clyde it wasn't just that the British threw back the German army it was also the whole character of the war changed for all the armies that yeah was where they first came to terms with what everybody now understands as the full horror of the Great War trench warfare and this is the end of that war of movement that starts in the August all the way down to the Marne all the way back again and it's here that we start to dig dig dig so yeah we're on the spot where it changes and when it started to rain yeah they weren't on the earth they were on the mud yelling you have to learn to cope with things such as trench fur and how to get around that and reinforce your trenches to withstand bombardments we're no longer than sea artillery now in front of the infantry foreigners field guns they're going to be behind the lines or certainly in sunken lanes and that sort of thing nobody dare show his head above the parapet no this is we go subterranean from now on us right and any movement by day would have been suicidal yeah but the British paid a devastating price for their narrow victory a deep 56,000 British soldiers were killed or wounded in a month the old professional British Army was largely destroyed thereafter it would be civilian volunteers and later conscripts who were counted for the overwhelming majority of the six million British soldiers who eventually served but however terrible the sacrifice it seems mistaken to imagine that there was ever an easy means by which the war could have been ended Wow huzzah hurrah the hugely successful Blackadder series epitomizes the enduring popular view of the first world war that the British Army fell victim to idiot commanders devoid of brains or courage best of luck to you all sorry I can't be with you but obviously there's no place at the front for an old general with a Dickey Hart and a wooden bladder most of the wars commanders really were pretty unlovable and unimaginative men but once the most powerful industrial states in Europe were locked in strife it seems wrong to imagine that even of Willington or Napoleon could have found an easy road to victory George Orwell wrote a generation later that the only way to end a war quickly is to lose it he was right the trench stalemate on the Western Front posed intractable problems which no commander proved able to solve generals needed to be able to control their forces by telephone I could only do so from behind the front rather than at the head of their troops as on history's battlefields but the price of long distance command was to create a divide between the top brass in their shutters and their men calf deep in mud which has made enduring and bitter impact on posterity's view of the war in the summer of 1918 Allied forces finally broke the stalemate on the Western Front and pushed east across France with the British army taking more prisoners than all their allied partners put together the Germans exhausted and demoralized fell back in growing disarray until an armistice was signed on the 11th of November around 10 million competence 900,000 of them from the British Empire had lost their lives two months after the shooting stopped the victorious Allies convened a peace conference at the Palace of Versailles outside Paris their task was enormous their purposes the most ambitious in history the Versailles Summit has often since been branded a failure which condemned Europe to a further generation of strife Prime Minister Lloyd George French premier Georges Clemenceau and American President Woodrow Wilson led the negotiations involving delegations from many other interested nations which lasted for six months between January and June 1919 their intention was to produce a treaty that would not only reshape Europe but also ensure that there could never again be a great war by disarming the Germans and making them pay the costs of the conflict historian Margaret Macmillan is the author of the most compelling and vivid modern narrative of what happened at Versailles what was at stake for the Allied powers at Versailles I think they had two things yet to think about they were deeply concerned about the state of Europe and indeed their own countries included there was real fear of revolution and they were worried that the situation might deteriorate what was also at stake of course is they were democracies and they had to think of their publics and the public's had been led to believe and had been kept going in the war by the promise that it was going to make a much better world and so what they had to try and do is create a better world two incredibly ambitious objectives it was very ambitious but then of course the first world war is so unusual compared to earlier was because it was so exhausting that you couldn't just say at the end of it well that's it done we'll make a few border changes we'll go back to normal you couldn't go back to normal I seem to remember that the Germans eventually paid less than they had made the French pay after they beat the French in 1871 what the Allies couldn't say to their own people was look there's no way Germany can pay what really we need to rebuild because they their own people had suffered so much and so they had to put a bill in but what they did was they fudged it they divided the total reparations bill up so the Germans only paid a fraction once they paid the fraction they pay the worst which of course the Germans never wanted to do the Allies really failed afterwards to convince their own peoples that their calls have been just in there well I suppose the problem with the first world war is it that the expectations are so high the promises are so great and he all sorts of promises we know made during the war to try and keep people in the war but there's no way that all those promises can be cashed in after the war is over abuse fell upon the Versailles Treaty almost before ink was dry on the signatures the economist John Maynard Keynes one of the British Treasury delegation published a scathing broadside entitled the economic consequences of the peace a strong German sympathizer Keynes made a case that the terms imposed upon Germany were both morally unjust and economically foolish how influential was Maynard Keynes and his book the economic consequences of the peace which absolutely damned Versailles it was very influential I mean he wrote it very quickly it became a best-seller immediately it's been in print ever since and it's a brilliant polemic it's not fair he paints this picture of these greedy selfish hurt hearted cynical meant dividing up you're punishing Germany and they're just making a complete mess of it I think there's also he represents a whole generation of younger people who have supported the war believing that the world was going to be a better place and when they saw it wasn't going to be they reacted and blamed the people who are trying to make peace for everything I was thought one of the huge unfairness is of Kansas book is did he never set it in the context of saying all right even if the Allies have made a fumbled bungled piece if the Germans had won and if the Germans have been making the peace it would have been a vastly crueler and worst one for Europe I think there's plenty of evidence that what the German High Command they were basically in control of Germany by this point by 1918 you had a military dictatorship in Germany and what they were planning were pretty extensive annexations of other people's lands in the West and in the East they were planning to extend their influence they in the Treaty of brest-litovsk they had forced the Bolsheviks who were desperate to give over whatever gold they had left they'd set up an independent Ukraine I mean the evidence is unless they've had a complete change of heart it would have been a very harsh peace today an awful lot of people have come to feel a real guilt about the Treaty of Versailles oh it was an unfair treaty to Germany that it contributed to the rise of Hitler got it well was it the harsh spending tip treaty they claimed the trouble with the treaty I think is that it appeared to be harsher than it actually was and of course it was all about implementation and in the end those clauses which limited German power and forced Germany pay reparations were not really implemented fully and so I think there's a perception of the treaty is very harsh my question always is is what would you have done otherwise how would you have treated Germany if you felt it had caused the war and caused this catastrophe for Europe what would you have done wouldn't you have tried to limit its power because Versailles failed to deliver a lasting peace it has become unjustly blamed for the fact that a second world war had to be fought in truth so many violent forces and crises shook Europe between 1919 and 1939 but it seems absurd to blame the peacemakers for having failed in their ground purposes you erosion 1945 vet country run by Labour government committed to creating a welfare state after 1918 the old gang remained in charge of an unreformed British society those who had fought felt that they had been sold a full spill of goods I own grandfather a writer who won a Military Cross as a gunner officer in France became one of those who within a few years of the Armistice asked himself what it had all been for here's an essay my grandfather wrote for a literary magazine in 1923 after meeting a group of fellow veterans who served with him in France they now felt he said that they had gone not as heroes but on a fool's errand to fight in a war that was not worth fighting they'd endured the unsightly dirty life of the battlefields with a cheery and modest sense of Merit with a belief that they were making some contribution to a good cause but now it transpired this had been a stupid article of faith which was exploded my grandfather and his kind felt themselves strangers in a strange land divided by the horrendous trench experience from those at home who knew almost nothing about it the poets of the Western Front such manners Wilfred Aaron Robert Graves siegfried sassoon vividly described its Horrors on the sense of military futility in a fashion that later generations have found irresistible here was the world's worst wound and here with pride they're named liveth forever more the Gateway claims was ever an emulation so belied as these intolerably nameless names well might the dead who struggled in the slime rise and derived this Sepulcher of crime but Sassoon and his kind never addressed the huge question of how on earth Britain could have escaped from the war except by conceding defeat it's a weird British thing that while we're hugely proud that our forefathers fought Hitler we seem almost ashamed that they fought the Kaiser how was the overwhelming perception developed in Britain over the last hundred years that there was nothing worth fighting about in the First World War well the interesting point is not so much that after the war opinion changed or opinion veered to the point when he said that was a bad war it was bad to conduct it it was a waste of time to waste of blood and it should never have happened nobody thought that in 1918 I think nobody thought that for another ten years until about 1920 8 9 the poet's did but the interesting thing is whether people would have been interested and affected by what the poets wrote they became expressive of a public opinion in 1928 they weren't expressive in in 1918 at the end of the 1920s there's this worldwide slump total catastrophic unemployment everywhere especially in Germany the situation seemed to be far worse in 1928 than it had been in 1914 and by 1933 also it has become generally accepted that the war is an unnecessary war that had been bungled etc etcetera so I think that what was very very important was not so much the fact that the war had been terribly expensive and bloody and the losses were awful it was that nothing seemed to have come out of it of any good europe's descent into the turmoil and privations of the 1930s caused many people to view the Great War as bungled the peace shambolic some perversely blamed the victors for the rise of Hitler and Nazism while many people today still think of the First World War was a bad war ii has come to be seen by contrast as a virtuous crusade against the Nazi architects of genocide nobody went to war in 1939 to stop the Germans massacring the Jews I mean sad though maybe you've said that partly because of course the serious massacres hadn't yet begun but principally because Germany might be doing awful things Nazi Germany domestically but in those days nobody saw that as an obligation to go to war in the way in which we would today so in some respects both wars break out for similar reasons great power rivalries and the concerns of the balance of power within Europe and what is happening within Eastern Europe they're remarkably similar in their causation and it is perverse that we have closed that the Second World War is the good war in the First World War is the bad war and and of course we have not remained sufficiently I'm talking we as British now have not remained sufficiently independent minded or sufficiently historically aware to put these things in our own and a proper context no sane person believes that Britain wanted a war in 1914 all the great powers bear some responsibility for the carnage but the Germans seem to deserve most because they refuse to use their almost indisputable ability to prevent it they failed to see that nothing they hope to get out of the war could justify its horrendous prospective risk an actual cost Britain emerged from the first world war was little to show save a few worthless colonies and a host of public memorials but the right questions to ask about the conflict and the nation's sacrifice today are whether we could just Lee or sensibly have stayed out of it and what would have befallen Europe if the kaisers Germany had won I'm imagining Whitehall as it was on the 4th of August jam with expectant people about to be swept away by the most dreadful Cataclysm in European history nobody in their right mind would suggest to making the centenary of 1914 an occasion for celebration but we should have the courage to tell our children and grandchildren though the wartime generation did not fight and die for nothing but if their enemies had prevailed Europe would have paid an even more terrible forfeit you you

23 thoughts on “World War 1(BBC Documentary)”

  1. whenever jew? c? that pythön wannabee you nö itz dumb mediä . -.-
    what a sörry lönGv€ dinö they dig düg with that vv | & their nöt even $hy abavD id ^ ^

  2. Narrator Talking about freedom, sounds great, but what they did to third world countries it's well known, total hypocrisy, British killed unarmed inocent woman, children , man in Jaliyawala Baugh, India

  3. WW1 was necessary???? What an
    Empire attitude to have Typical
    arrogance of British high mighty attitude .. Germany was forced into the war because they were Allies of the Ausro Hungarian Empire .. .. The true cause of the was were the Royal families True they were all 1st cousins but they hated each other bitterly..
    Typical a Pom calls anyth ing German to be war mongers And this comes from a man who supports a country who were responsible for the murder of over 350 million people throughout their Empire…. It's typical that a Brit would wilfully eager to scumbag the Kieser … Britain didn't want any other country become as powerful as they were.
    Britain had more War Lords than any other country had..
    This dude is seriously prejudice and one eyed without being interested in more to what is fact and fiction

  4. This is British propaganda. France was weak and so was Russia. Serbia did actively pull off the assassination. they needed a whipping and France and Russia were nare do wells. The deal was England was just as weak except for the navy and feared the Germans would see the king wore no clothes. England used France and Russia to maintain her empire. The US should have allied with Germany and crushed the British French and Russian filth

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