I’ve recently been working on an articles on the lead up to World War I. One of the things which has struck me about the period, which has a disturbing resonance for today, is how swiftly Europe turned from peace to war.
In mid-June, 1914, Europe was at peace. There was no hint of war.
Two months later the first of the great battles of the war had been fought and tens of thousands of soldiers lay dead.
The war just seemed to appear out of nowhere, and when it came, it was terrible.
Australian soldiers charging up a hill in Galipolli – how many of them were dead within a few minutes of this photo?
Of course there were tensions between nations; there always are. But it was really only when historians looked back and asked the question, why did the war occur?, that any feeling of inevitability appeared.
It is all too easy to see parallels today. There are tensions between nations today: Russia and the West; Iran and Saudi Arabia; China and her neighbours; North Korea and practically everyone else.
And it is so easy to see how the superpowers of today will get involved that I’ll not bother to elaborate.
If a war does break out, there will be plenty of historians who’ll later say that it was inevitable. I’m not sure that they will be wrong. But I hope, and sincerely pray, that war can be avoided. If it comes, it will indeed be terrible.
By Peter Britton