The Great War (1914-1918) - Episode 6: Collapse

·Princess Evelyn Blücher.
·Germany in 1918: strikes, riots, civil unrest in Berlin.
·Kaiser Wilhelm II's lifestyle / Power in the hands of generals: Paul von Hindenburg and Erich Ludendorff.
·Unrestricted submarine warfare.
·US – unprecedent economic boom.
·The Zimmermann telegram.
·Wilson: 'The World must be made safe for democracy'.
·Success of enlisting campaign / 'Negro' batallions / Importance in the achievement of civil rights for black Americans.
·Caruso sings 'Over there'. Future President Harry Truman calls it 'The Great Adventure'. General John Pershing – Americans would fight as an American Army, not as units under French or British command.
·Ghosts of French men, Crucifixes on the Western Front.
·Resentment against the Kaiser in Berlin.
·March 1918 in Germany.
·Tanks. August 1918.
·American battle – Meuse-Argonne.
·October 1918: mutiny in the German Navy.
·Armistice – 11 November 1918.

The first poem of the last part of the anthology is marvelously connected with the end of this chapter, it is grateful to read to read the soldiers' song 'When this bloody war is over' knowing that the end of the chapter is the Armistice of 11th November 1918.

As we go into the poems of this last part of the anthology we see a summary of what war has been and what victory will mean. As we can see in Edmund Blunden's 'Preparations for Victory' the concepts of death and victory are entwined, the poet demonstrates the extreme polarization of the war, with victory as the ultimate goal and death as the ultimate form of losing; and through this dichotomy Blunden portrays the great irony of the war: the inextricable link between victory and death actually forms an identity. A theme deepened tangentially in Osbert Sitwell's 'Peace Celebration', in May Wedderburn Cannan's 'Paris, November 11, 1918', in Ivor Gurney's 'It Is Near Toussaints' (where a day becomes the day of reunion between the war survivors and the war dead), in Laurence Binyon's 'For the Fallen' (in which Binyon says that "they" are at least immortal), in F. W. Harvey's 'Out of the Mouths of Babes', in Charlotte Mew's 'The Cenotaph' (where she feels unredeemed by the deaths of those young men), in St John Adcock's 'The Silence' (where we see the distinction between public and private silence), in Robert Graves' 'Recalling War', in Edward Shanks' 'Armistice Day, 1921' (in which Shanks gives voice to the war dead), in J. C. Squire's 'A Generation (1917)', in Siegfried Sassoon's 'Memorial Tablet' (giving us the poem an insight into what the war is about: a gruesome pointless death), in A. E. Housman's 'Epitaph on an Army of Mercenaries' (a poem in praise of the 'Old Contemptibles'), or in Ezra Pound's 'Hugh Selwyn Mauberley: V' (where Pound states that civilization's defense was not worth all of those deaths).

As it can be seen in the episode, the last months of the war were a matter of resiliance and it is related to the way Siegfried Sassoon writes 'Everyone Sang', as a kind of song of praise for soldiers' resiliance. Besides, we can read that kind of friendship that arises when people have faced death together, as in Robert Graves' 'Two Fusiliers'.

We can still see that although soldiers known they've been lied by the rulers, some of them think God is the answer for everything, as a way of saying that God works on mysterious ways, as we can read in 'Report on Experience' by Edmund Blunden. Or the step beyond given in G. A. Studdert Kennedy's 'Dead and Buried' relating soldiers to Jesus Christ. Although this could be confronted to poems as Wilfred Owen's 'Disabled' (where the poet depicts the disassociation and detachment from self and society felt by a soldier and his losses have made his body alien) or Ivor Gurney's 'Strange Hells'.

But what is wonderful is to see that there were poems against one of those principles that govern society in 20th century: the defence of one's country; but attacking it because of the falseness of rulers or of those who take advantage of war. We can see it in the acerbic attack on the political class of G. K. Chesterton's 'Elegy in a Country Churchyard', and in Rudyard Kipling's 'Epitaphs: Common Form' (one of the greatest laments of the youth who went out to fight wars because of the actions and exhortations of the older).

And there is a great theme pointed out in this section: the denunciations after the war. The way in which the dead are remembered, in Siegfried Sassoon's 'On Passing the New Menin Gate' and in Philip Johnstone's 'High Wood'; the feminine point of view of the discomfort, partly physical and partly mental, around the movement of middle-class women into a professional space, or in Vera Brittain's 'The Superfluous Woman'.

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