To prepare for my book, Lexi and Marie Curie Saving Lives in World War I, I discovered Marie’s role as a war heroine. It was necessary therefore to know more about the war in order to paint the background in detail. In the research the First World War was called “the war to end all wars.” Of course, it didn’t end wars; but it did change how they are fought.
After I wrote the following post on Tuesday, August 5, 2014, I was amazed to read Kent Spencer’s article in the August 7, 2014 issue of the Province. Mr. Spencer’s article supported the points I was making in my post so beautifully that I altered my post to include quotes from Mr. Spencer’s article. In recognition of the Centenary of World War I, please consider the following thoughts.
Since time began, men have settled differences by fighting. Fighting began hand to hand. Soon stones and blades became weapons. Men next made swords and spears – ever seeking to distance themselves from the killing.
The bow and arrow increased the distance, and then guns and canons increased the distance even more. But accuracy became a concern so leaders lined up their bowmen and later riflemen to increase the number of enemy destroyed. This was accepted practice until the American Revolutionary War, when the colonists took cover and shot at the British soldiers all lined up. (The British didn’t think that practice was fair at all!)
One hundred forty years later, French soldiers and soldiers from Newfoundland were ordered to march – not charge – into enemy fire. They were slain by machine gun fire. Thus trench warfare evolved as the soldiers on both sides hid. Always inventing more lethal means, gas warfare and long distance canons were added to the mix. These weapons, with more range, grew more lethal, more accurate, and even rained down from the skies.
The Province newspaper’s Kent Spencer wrote about Corporal Filip Konowal, a Ukranian Canadian and WWI war hero, on August 7, 2014
Corporal Konowal was awarded the Victoria Cross for single-handedly destroying nests of enemy troops and their machine guns with his bare hands and bayonet. Spencer’s article includes a quote from Konowal, “I was so fed up standing in the trench with water to my waist, that I said the hell with it and started after the German army. My captain tried to shoot (me) because he figured I was deserting.”
In Spencer’s article, Professor Lubomyr Luciuk of Kingston’s Royal Military College commented, “The bayonet was up close and personal,” referring to the corporal’s actions.
In my opinion, the soldiers who take personal action, these are the men who are often labelled ‘heroes’.
Today, Man has invented weapons that do his dirty work for him and keep him so far from the killing that he doesn’t even admit responsibility for it. Today, men sit in computer rooms controlling flying, robotic drones, and kill people continents away.
Yes, man is very clever, very inventive, and more distant from the killing, but he hasn’t worked out how to avoid wars in the first place …
The men who figure out how to end wars altogether will be the heroes of the future.