On Saturday we consecrated the restored Lantern that hangs above the Gateway offices to Ringwood Town Council. Fittingly it is in good time for Remembrance Sunday when we mark the 100th anniversary of the armistice that ended The Great War.
I say ‘we’ consecrated it, but as Abraham Lincoln would have undoubtedly observed, rather it is consecrated by the brave souls who struggled and died far above our power to do so that afternoon.
When I was learning about World War One at school in the early nineteen seventies, we were taught that it was all a terrible mistake, an accident even: that through the complex set of alliances, a political assassination in an obscure city in the Balkans led almost automatically to war between the great powers; that a machine was in motion that couldn’t be stopped.
Consequently, as no great principle was at stake, the slaughter of so many was ultimately just a senseless waste.
There is, of course, no control experiment in history, no way of knowing how things would have turned out had they been done differently. I now reject utterly however, the history I was taught at School.
The Kaiser’s Germany was a fast expanding power run by a militarist elite that derided the values of emerging liberal democracy. It was rapidly developing ever more sophisticated armaments and offensive capability. A swift victory in war with France had been the basis of German military planning and preparation for a generation.
If post Great War history has taught us anything, it is the lethal danger of appeasing aggressive militarist regimes.
Who knows how much darker the modern history of our continent would have been had we not come to the aid of Belgium and France in 1914.
It was a just, noble and honourable cause