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The ‘War to End All Wars’ – attributed to President Woodrow Wilson (1856 – 1924) – was an appallingly bloody conflict. It was sparked by the assassination of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria, heir to the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and his wife Sophie, Duchess of Hohenberg, in Sarajevo (at that time in a backwater province of the Empire), by Gavrilo Princip, a fervent Bosnian nationalist on the 28th June, 1914. Within weeks, a series of incidents, and a set of interlocking alliances, lead to the outbreak of hostilities between England, France and Russia on the one hand, and Germany and Austria-Hungary on the other. Eventually, most of Europe was involved, (in this war, Italy was on the side of England and France), although there were notable neutral nations such as Holland and Switzerland.

Britain sent her small, professional army across the Channel, to the aid of France and ‘plucky little Belgium’. It became a dash to the North Sea coast, as rival forces attempted to outflank each other. By the end of autumn, trench warfare had begun, with trench systems constructed opposite each other, all the way from the North Sea to the Swiss border. The war became a meat grinder, with poison gas, the newly developed machine gun and the even newer aircraft turning the Western Front into a bloodbath.

The local regiment for the Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire area was the ‘Sherwood Foresters’, an amalgamation, in 1881, of two earlier infantry units. The 2nd Battalion, which was in England when war broke out in August 1914, was sent to France with the British Expeditionary Force, to shore up the left of the French line of battle. Fierce German attacks meant that the Foresters were thrown into defence of the River Aisne. The Ist Battalion arrived from garrison duty in India in time to take part in the bloody battles of Loos and Neuve Chapelle. Earlier, the Colonel of the Regiment, General Sir Horace Lockwood Smith-Dorrien GCB, GCMG, DSO, ADC, (who had been promoted to a senior position, but still retained the Colonelcy of the ‘Foresters’), had become isolated on the 24th August, 1914, with a British unit and finding himself facing a far superior German force at Le Cateau, had uttered the memorable words, ‘Gentlemen, we will stand and fight’. The British force suffered many casualties, but held their ground and so mauled the invading Germans that the other British units were able to reform.

The Regiment formed a total of 13 Battalions during the First World War, and won numerous awards for gallantry, including no less than nine Victoria Crosses – one of which was awarded to the air ace, Albert Ball, who had joined the Sherwood Foresters, then transferred to the Royal Flying Corps (as many officers did). The total of those killed in action by war’s end was horrifying; no less than 11,409 dead from just the two counties. In response, there was a public subscription to raise a memorial to those who had served and died. A site on a 1,000 foot hill, on the edge of a quarry in Crich, Derbyshire was chosen. It had been the site of a stone observatory tower, called Crich Stand, built on the foundations of an earlier edifice by Francis Hurt, the grandson of Richard Arkwright. This had been badly affected in a landslip, so was demolished to make way for the new memorial, which was opened by General Smith-Dorrien, in the presence of the Lord Lieutenants of Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire and many thousands of people, on the 6th  August, 1923.

The Foresters were to lose over 1,500 dead in WW2, and these men are also memorialized at Crich, as are those who fell in Malaya in the 1950s and in other actions, including the Gulf  War, after the Foresters had been first merged with the Worcestershire Regiment, then further reduced to Battalion status within the new Mercian Regiment (formed in 2007). The site is a green and peaceful spot, with a small refreshment room and a Warden’s lodge. For those who visit, (and I used to live about 6 miles from this memorial), the climb to the top of the tower yields a stunning panoramic view over no less than eight English counties – Derbyshire, Yorkshire, Nottinghamshire, Lincolnshire, Staffordshire, Cheshire, Lancashire and Leicestershire. The rotating latern, the first of which was installed there in 1934, shines bravely on the darkest of nights. ‘Crich Stand’ as Derbyshire folk call it, truly stands for poignant sacrifice on a grand scale.

Originally posted to shortfinals on Sat Dec 29, 2012 at 10:52 PM PST.

Also republished by Derbyshire and The Peak District.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Thanks SF (6+ / 0-)

    Major Kong wrote about his visit to WWI cemeteries in France just a few days ago.  We Americans are very isolated from that war, we don't understand the devastation.  Losing 11 thousand young lads from just 2 counties is unfathomable.  I dimly recall a town in Virginia (or was it Massachusetts? [Wiki hints that it was the 116th Infantry Regiment, VA National Guard]) that lost nearly every young man from the town on Omaha Beach.   They were still devastated 50-60 years later.    

    “that our civil rights have no dependence on our religious opinions, any more than our opinions in physics or geometry.” Thomas Jefferson

    by markdd on Sat Dec 29, 2012 at 11:57:19 PM PST

    •  It Is Hard To Imagine (7+ / 0-)

      my grandfather was a HUMP pilot. Well really a flight surgeon, but learned to fly cause as he was told, a lot of folks don't make it back and you need to know how to land the plane.

      When opportunity calls pick up the phone and give it directions to your house.

      by webranding on Sun Dec 30, 2012 at 12:02:31 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  My grandmother was left a widow with ... (4+ / 0-)

      ...nine children. There was a whole generation practically wiped out in some of the local communities, and it could be said that the twin blows of WW1 and WW2 finished the country off. By the way, the U.K. finished paying its immediate post-war obligations to the USA in 2006!

      (see quotation below from 'Hansard', the official record of proceedings in the House of Commons)

      "Bob Spink: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) what outstanding liabilities there are to the United Kingdom of lend-lease loan facilities arranged during the Second World War; [38441]…"
       "Ruth Kelly: The information is as follows..."
       "Under the Agreement, the loans would be repaid in 50 annual instalments commencing in 1950. However the Agreement allowed deferral of annual payments of both principal and interest if necessary because of prevailing international exchange rate conditions and the level of the United Kingdom's foreign currency and gold reserves. The United Kingdom has deferred payments on six occasions. Repayment of the war loans to the United States Government should therefore be completed on 31 December 2006, subject to the United Kingdom not choosing to exercise its option to defer payment.
       As at 31 March 2001, principal of £243,573,154 [$346,287,953 at the exchange rate on that day] was outstanding on the loans provided by the United States Government in 1945. The Government intends to meet its obligations under the 1945 Agreement by repaying the United States Government in full the amounts lend [sic] in 1945."

      Yes, Britain was paying for WW2 (literally) until 2006!

      A little-known fact........

      'Per Ardua Ad Astra'

      by shortfinals on Sun Dec 30, 2012 at 08:42:32 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  WOW, I did not know that. (3+ / 0-)

        Didn't DeGaul repudiate all of France's WWII debts back in the mid '60's?

        “that our civil rights have no dependence on our religious opinions, any more than our opinions in physics or geometry.” Thomas Jefferson

        by markdd on Sun Dec 30, 2012 at 09:19:44 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  I believe Stalin (4+ / 0-)

          ...said that Russia had already paid in

          Britain was bankrupt, out of the 'game' of world politics, and virtually reduced to an historical theme park.

           The steady decline has continued. The military strength has been reduced to below that of many European nations, and the UK can no longer build its own airliners.

          Soon we are about to launch an aircraft carrier, (built in several places and 'sewn' together) which we will immediately mothball - because we will have no 'planes for it for 10 years!

          We forced our small aircraft manufacturers together in 'shotgun' marriages, and the resulting mess died.

          I could go on...but it would only illustrate the steady decline of a once great nation.......

          'Per Ardua Ad Astra'

          by shortfinals on Sun Dec 30, 2012 at 10:03:09 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

    •  Thank you... (4+ / 0-) is STILL hard to grasp the level of sacrifice.

      'Per Ardua Ad Astra'

      by shortfinals on Sun Dec 30, 2012 at 08:43:41 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  We Lost (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      markdd, shortfinals, Wee Mama

      fifty thousand men in WW1, but it is, for some strange reason(s), just a dusty relic in American history.

      Eat, drink, and be fat and drunk.

      by Ref on Sun Dec 30, 2012 at 01:09:56 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  What little I remember from HS (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        shortfinals, Wee Mama

        history class was Wilson keeping us out of war, we go in, we won, we came home.  Next up the Great Depression.......

        Little to nothing about what caused it, how destructive it was, Wilson's failures at Versailles and how it really represented a prelude to more wars.

        “that our civil rights have no dependence on our religious opinions, any more than our opinions in physics or geometry.” Thomas Jefferson

        by markdd on Sun Dec 30, 2012 at 01:57:00 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Wilson's efforts to establish th League of Nations (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Wee Mama

          ...was admirable but misguided (as was the later London Naval Treaty). If you have seen the final appearance of the Japanese delegation before the League (before they walked out of the League) by saying they would do what they wanted in China, it was digusting!

          'Per Ardua Ad Astra'

          by shortfinals on Sun Dec 30, 2012 at 04:28:59 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

      •  The US was completely unprepared for ... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Wee Mama

        ....WW1. The Army had not ONE US-designed aircraft fit for frontline service, and had to rely on French and British designs. It was, almost, an 'accidental' war.....

        'Per Ardua Ad Astra'

        by shortfinals on Sun Dec 30, 2012 at 03:41:20 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  On my first trip to Britain (6+ / 0-)

    I was struck by the prevalence of memorials to the Great War. One plaque I saw at Liverpool Station covered an entire wall with the names of employees who had died in action. I saw similar memorials in every town of any size that I visited. On a later visit to Cambridge I saw the heartbreaking statue raised to the memory of all the boys who went off to war like they were off on a spree and never returned.

    Thank you for writing this.

    "Dulce decorum est, pro patria mori."

    Nothing human is alien to me.

    by WB Reeves on Sun Dec 30, 2012 at 01:31:45 AM PST

  •  names of the dead (3+ / 0-)

    And this is but one monument. Europe has seen so much devastation.

    Within weeks, a series of incidents, and a set of interlocking alliances, lead to the outbreak of hostilities between England, France and Russia on the one hand, and Germany and Austria-Hungary on the other.
    I once read an article (sorry, can't cite) which argued that the swiftness towards all-out conflict could in some large part be explained by inexperience with "modern" communications among the diplomatic community. That, basically, they were overwhelmed, and incapable of properly assessing new information as it came in. And, well … spasm.

    That's always stuck with me.

    Ha! Just a couple of days ago, someone posted a comment here, in response to a (tentative) report of the use of poison gas in Syria. I paraphrase: "Well, wasn't that Obama's red line?!" What is it with the immediacy that is demanded these days? Take the long view, always.

    All things in the sky are pure to those who have no telescopes. – Charles Fort

    by subtropolis on Sun Dec 30, 2012 at 01:36:42 AM PST

  •  Albert Ball 'the English Richtofen' (3+ / 0-)

    he had the best line of all about the Red Baron's demise:
    "I hope he screamed all the way down to Hell!"

    Happy just to be alive

    by exlrrp on Sun Dec 30, 2012 at 05:07:19 AM PST

  •  Anyone who'd like to be rendered speechless... (5+ / 0-)

    ....dumbfounded, amazed, disgusted, etc, should read Barbara Tuchman's The Guns Of August, a discussion of the beginning of "The Great War"....

    Actually, go read EVERYTHING you can find by Barbara, including The March Of Folly, The Zimmerman Telegram, and The First Salute...

    One of the odd facts about the beginning of the war was that Britain was obligated by treaty to protect Belgium, and they would have had to attack FRANCE, had she chosen to attack Germany first...(Belgium was apparently the only easy way for the two belligerents could reach each other!)

    "Ronald Reagan is DEAD! His policies live on but we're doing something about THAT!"

    by leftykook on Sun Dec 30, 2012 at 07:13:12 AM PST

  •  I wrote a diary some time back (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    shortfinals, Ref, Joy of Fishes, Wee Mama

    about the death of Major General Sir Hector Archibald MacDonald.  "Fighting Mac."  Some of the commenters speculated how things might have turned out differently had Sir Hector not been forced into committing suicide in 1903 by the Army brass and the King.  

    Had he lived, Britain would have had the benefit of one of the greatest military tactical minds of the last several centuries.  Could Hector have averted the war?  Probably not, but he sure as hell could have kept so many men from being slaughtered.  In another ten or twelve years, he would have only been 60 years old, and probably at least two ranks higher than Major General.  That kind of rank carries serious clout.

    Hector the Hero: a cautionary tale about military homophobia

    The general who wins the battle makes many calculations in his temple before the battle is fought. The general who loses makes but few calculations beforehand. - Sun Tzu

    by Otteray Scribe on Sun Dec 30, 2012 at 08:39:21 AM PST

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