Wandering around a bookstore the other day, I found a 50% off copy of Good-Bye to All That by Robert Graves, the English author most famous for writing I, Claudius. Graves decided, at the age of 34, to write his autobiography. Apparently he was rather in need of cash, as he pounded the thing out in 11 weeks. It was a hit and it's been in print ever since.
on the first day of the battle of the Somme.
Graves spent a good part of 1914 on home duty, but was eventually assigned to the front, first as a lieutenant then eventually as an officer, assigned to infantry duty in the trenches. Graves fought in two major battles, the Somme and Loos, which the men called "shows".
While still a virgin, Graves saw plenty of war, killed a lot of men, and saw a lot of men killed. He knew war.
At the Battle of Loos, Graves writes of how British intended to use poison gas in the attack, but the gas masks they issued to their own troops were poorly designed and ineffective. The actual gas attack was intended to be carried out by simply opening up cannisters of the gas in the British trenches and then letting the wind blow the gas over the German lines. As it turns out, in Graves's sector, there was no wind on the morning of the attack, but the order came to open the gas cannisters anyway. As a result of this and other mistakes, many British troops became casualties of the planned gas attack.
And Graves also knew the John Boltons and Mitt Romneys of the day, who lust for war, but never seem to find the opportunity to march off to war themselves:
War should be a sport for men above forty-five only, the Jesse's, not the David's. "Well, dear father, how proud I am of you serving your country as a very gallant gentleman prepared to make even the supreme sacrifice! I only wish I were your age: how willingly I would buckle on my armour and fight those unspeakable Philistines! As it is of course, I can't be spared; I have to stay behind at the War Office and administrate for you lucky old men. What sacrifices I have made!", David would sigh, when the old boys had gone off with a draft to the front, singing Tipperary: "There's father and my Uncle Salmon, and both my grandfathers, all on active service. I must put a card in the window about it.And here is the man himself, reciting his poem The Man in the Mirror:
So, by all means, John Bolton, march off to war yourself, I'll put a bumper sticker on my car.