War and Terror
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?
SpeakEasy: Spoken Word Brussels is an ‘open mic’ evening of spoken word (and a bit of music) in a basement in the Ixelles area of the city. Modelled on similar events in Paris and London, it has been taking place every two weeks since November last year.
I have been talking with Brussels transport workers and trade unionists in the aftermath of the 22 March Daesh bombings which killed 32 people and injured hundreds more. Amidst the news reporting and political demagogy, it is important that their voices are heard.
When places of worship
become places of wonder
will tell wide-eyed visitors
You won't believe
what people used to believe
And then, with downcast eyes
they will add
And you'll never believe
what some of them did
in the name of what they believed
Hopeless force the Dardanelles
Shells, death knells and straits to hell
Terra firma, firmer terror
History puts it down to error
Wounded yet still predatory
Terrorise for territory
Ground of flesh and rocks from bones
Lay out wire for telephones
Cable London, cross terrain
Thousands dead, a few yards gained
Must despatch a good news story
Inched a bit more territory
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
A century ago, with Britain at war, the Woman's Dreadnought published this poem:
- to man the comfortable