Part of the city of Belgrade,Serbia, bombed in 1914
During WW1, Serbia lost 25% of its mobilised soldiers- that is, 57% of its male population. France lost 16.8%, British Empire 16%, Germany 15.4%, Russia 11.5% (it withdrew from the fighting in October 1917) and Italy 10.3%. Austro-Hungary, Romania Turkey, USA, Bulgaria, Belgium, Portugal, Greece and Japan also suffered the loss of men in their armed forces. These figures are percentages. Russia, for example, had a larger army than Serbia and thus lost more of its soldiers.
Many men, all over the world were left physically or psychologically damaged. Many civilians died as a direct result of the war. Women and men were bereaved, having to adjust to a different world to that which existed before the war.
My granddad who fought in France, didn’t speak of what he’d witnessed, but it was described as ‘the war to end all wars.’ What did he think when his two eldest sons were obliged to fight in WW2, when 95 % of his city’s houses were damaged during air raids, his mother-in-law killed in the bombing?
Very few people want a war, and yet the possibility of war, remains constant.
Llantrisant, The church of the three saints, considered one of the most peaceful places
Many Western countries commemorate Armistice Day or another annual day of remembrance. It seems to me that the most responsible acts of remembrance include those of the dead on all sides, civilians and service men and women. The causes of and justification for war are complex and hard to understand. Many of the effects are devastating for those at the time and later generations.
When I and my husband cycled from Zanten in Northern Germany into Denmark, we came across war cemeteries on both sides of the border. The graves of 18-20 year olds were particularly moving because my step-daughter was that age. How do parents recover from such a loss?
Autumn view over river Bar in North Wales
In the Balkans before and after WW1, atrocities were committed on civilians by both sides- events that form part of the story in A Time for Peace.
The Hague Conventions (1899 and 1907) ruled ‘the life of an enemy combatant who had “laid down his arms, or no longer having means of defence” was to be spared. Every prisoner of war was to be humanely treated.’ All the armed forces prohibit(ed )the gratuitous slaughter of civilians and unarmed or wounded personnel.
During combat we have international laws which define what is, and what isn’t acceptable.It’s naive to think that only our enemies commit war crimes.
It is probably fanciful to hope that one day – soon- to wage war against another country will be an international crime. Yet I doubt I’m the only person to want it. And if not, now- when?