Friday, October 25, 2013

NO GLORY in War 1914 - 1918

An organisation which calls itself "NO GLORY in War 1914 - 1918" has its Campaign Launch this evening, 7.30pm at St James's Church in Piccadilly.

Billy Bragg is one of the performers at this concert, which perhaps gives you an indication of what political ideology underpins this organisation.  Jeremy Corbyn MP will also be at the event.  Supporters of NO GLORY in War 1914 - 1918 include Ken Loach, Tony Benn, Vanessa Redgrave, Ken Livingstone, Walter Wolfgang (famous for being thrown out of the Labour Party conference for heckling Jack Straw) and The Pogues.

What is going on here one might ask.

Why is the left mobilising a hard core of socialists and an assortment of luvvie celebrities (Jude Law, Carol Ann Duffy, Simon Callow) to campaign against people they accuse of "glorying" in the idea of war?

Their aim is, of course, seditious.  It is to make people feel uncomfortable about the British victory in the First World War.  It is to imply that the honour and glory due to the British participants in the Great War somehow equates to glorying in the idea of war itself.

This is a bogus and dishonest argument.

They would be more honest, and perhaps command more respect, if they just campaigned as an anti-war organisation without any of the fol de rol Oh What A Lovely War prancing and posing (as if anyone would believe The Pogues were impartial about the British military!).

But what of the specific idea of glory as related to the First World War?

We need to go back to the war and its immediate aftermath to see whether the participants and their families regarded the national struggle as glorious.

The Cenotaph in Whitehall specifically says the dead of the Great War are glorious, and this sentiment is echoed on hundreds of thousands of other memorials across the country.

Consider this memorial to Charles Winckley, killed while leading an attack in France on 20th July 1916:

Here we see the twenty-two year old Captain Winckley climbing from his trench on the front line.  In his right hand he brandishes a gun, in his left hand he holds up a swagger stick, presumably as a signal for others to follow.  Above him angels make exultant gestures (note the delicate gothic tracery that frames this heroic scene).  He is clearly rushing towards his death ("into cleanness leaping" as Rupert Brooke might say).  The face, despite the moustache, is the face of a boy and is obviously copied from a photograph.  Waiting for him, beyond the symbolic mullion of the gothic window, is the martyr's crown of glory.

On one level this is of course just make-believe.  Charles Winckley's death was probably messy (both bloody and muddy) and painful.  He was probably frightened and nervous when he jumped up onto the edge of the trench and ran towards the German guns.

But his parents (his parents please note) wanted him to be remembered with glory.

Who are we to deny their child his glory, even at the distance of a hundred years?

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