Throughout my entire school education, like every British schoolchild before me, I was spoon fed a strict diet of war patriotism and pride in the deeds of England’s Scottish victims. State education has never been, for the working classes, a project to foster and nurture the natural talents of young people, but a means of shaping them for industry and the prostitution of the their labour, and for the conditioning of cannon fodder. Here at Ypres over the past week I have had a great deal of time to reflect on the experiences of frontline soldiers during the First World War. The working people of Europe had nothing to do with starting the war, but they were certainly the ones who were made to fight it. Those who were responsible for it made damn sure that they would not pay the price in blood and tears for their political ambitions. Flanders, like every theatre of the so-called Great War, was a place of genocide; it was where the ruling classes conspired to cull their excess labour force, and they achieved this goal with stagger effect. Men and young boys pretending to be men, made of flesh and bone, stood little chance against the raw mechanical power of iron and steel.

The “enemy” killed soldiers who advanced, and officers killed soldiers who backed away. Everything on the battlefield was fatal – even the trees. Bullets from machineguns, rifles and revolvers flew in every conceivable direction, explosives, shells, and shrapnel rained down like fire from heaven, and the trees splintered into a million tiny arrows, each flying after a hit at the speed of sound. When the whistles blew and the men cascaded out into no-man’s-land everything was out to kill them. With the use of poisonous gas by both sides even the air wasn’t a friend. Here we are looking at an aerial photograph of the mine crater at Hooge. It is one of nineteen exploded along the German trench line of the Ypres Salient, and each one tells a powerful story of the raw energy that was employed for the sole purpose of killing human beings. Tonnes of explosive were mined under the enemy, and when it went sky-high it left a hole in the landscape that can be seen to this day. Sixty feet deep! Rumour has it that when they went off windows rattled as far away as London. We can see from the image that the earth was scattered for miles around – covering the men in their trench graves.

Jason Michael
Blog Author

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