aka the First World War
Dulce et decorum est
As Owen wrote, the ancient lie
Inscribed upon the soldier's breast
And told to men when sent to die
But tell me, for commemoration
Below the flag that's raised to fool us
Did they really die for nation
Or rather for the nation's rulers?
Photo: Wilfred Owen
This article was published in two parts in Solidarity newspaper, beginning in issue 388 on 6 January 2016.
Picture: My grandfather, Albert Henry Booth, who was in the Navy at Gallipoli, with his sister Victoria (Queenie).
A century ago, with Britain at war, the Woman's Dreadnought published this poem:
- to man the comfortable
Respect for war dead is not proved
By the depth of bow you're showing
But by the mountains you have moved
To stop their numbers growing.
This poem was included in the anthology Poems for Jeremy Corbyn (Shoestring Press, 2016)
and published by the Daily Mirror in September 2016.
Written on the centenary of the start of the appalling slaughter that was the Gallipoli campaign in World War One:
Rank corpses carpeted Gallipoli
At Russell's Top, Lone Pine and Suvla Bay
By bullet, bayonet or dysentery
Eight months of folly fighting lives away
Young Albert Booth got out of there alive
From hell to hell, from Dardanelles to trench
No others from his landing craft survived
But joined the dead, the ANZACs, Turks and French
One hundred thousand gone from those sad nations
And all for what? A great futility
Did lives not figure in the calculations
Of Britain's First Lord of the Admiralty?
- Excuse me if I don't take out a sub
- To Winston Churchill's great admirers' club
The WSF was the organisation led by Sylvia Pankhurst, which had previously been the Workers' Suffrage Federation, and before that, the East London Federation of the Suffragettes. It had previously fought militantly, first for votes for women, and then more explicitly for votes for all, and in 1917 was advocating supporting international socialists in parliamentary elections.