The lessons of the first world war are not a settled question in modern Britain, nor is how to commemorate it
Last autumn David Cameron went to London’s Imperial War Museum and announced plans for “a truly national commemoration” of the centenary of the first world war. There would be, he revealed, four years of events and activity, all at a total cost of more than £50m, starting with the centenary of the outbreak of war in August 2014 and continuing until the centenary of the Armistice in November 2018.
The speech was strikingly personal. Cameron talked about his own family experience of war. He said how Robert Graves’s war memoir, Goodbye to All That, was “my favourite book”. And he spoke of the great impression – “one of the most powerful things I’ve ever seen” – made on him by a visit to the Turkish memorial at Gallipoli. That memorial’s inscription – which states “there is no difference between the Johnnies and the Mehmets to us, where they lie, side by side, in this country of ours” – managed to capture “so much of what this is all about”, the prime minister said.
What, though, is …read more