People are quick to describe it as hell on earth – i suspect it is safer to describe it as hellish. But there is no doubting the horror of war – and for the generations who lived through it, the First World War was the war to end wars – it wasn’t, but it was probably the most consistently gruesome. I’ve talked about that before – but the Battle of Passchendaele has been in the news again this week because of the 90th anniversary of its start. I guess we’ve become used to seeing the scarred and lunar landscape of the battle’s aftermath, such as this one (from the Wikipedia site):
it is like some sort of extreme dystopian, ecological nightmare – the scene here is of Australian troops making their way along the duckboards through the devastation. It is bleak, forbidding, ghost-ridden. But the battle which cost a quarter of a million lives (not to mention the countless injured, maimed and scarred) somehow seems remote in these photos. We’re used to seeing our great grandparents’ generation in black and white, and we’re removed from them. Ours is the era of the graphic, the explicit, the polychrome.
Which is what makes these newly released photos (coloured and retouched and shown in the Daily Mail on Thursday) so necessary and shocking. They remind us:
- one that this is not ancient history;these things happened (across the century, across the globe) in recent lifetimes
- secondly that the gore and horror of X-rated video games and movies is no fantasy (however sick) – this was real life for millions for years. This was horror on a continental scale. And it happened to our grandfathers. It is no entertaining matter.
So only click if you’re ready. For these are not for the faint-hearted. Look, learn, and pray – not just that it never happens again (it sounds so naive to say that, doesn’t it – but what else can we do?) but also for those obsessed with the leisure industry that make light of such things – for there simply has to be a link between what we think, fantasize, dream, and what we say, approve of and do.