Stephen McGinty: First World War history in making


Some of the British soldiers during the First World War
Some of the British soldiers during the First World War.

BBC has launched 2,500 hours of broadcasting about the First World War to change people perception about the war, but as Stephen McGinty writes he is doubtful if these media campaigns will results to any change.

The documentary “Great Britain’s Great war” is a four part-part prime –time which will mark 100th anniversary of the First World War which began after the assassination of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand in the summer of 1914 and ended after the deaths of 16 million soldiers at 11th hour of the 11th day of 11th month 1918. Different programming across radio, television and internet has been set to be used to accomplish the 2500 hours broadcasting.

Many people consider First Word War as a failure that led to death of many people, but World War two is seen as a success and defeat of Nazis and the Holocaust which was organized by Hitler. The anniversary would have meant something to people if it was done in 2039.

BBC is Britain national broadcaster and it has taken the role of documenting the events about WW1 which will be documented by Neil Oliver. Radio Scotland is set to air 100 stories about the country and the western front including a 30-minute documentary on Eric Bogle who immigrated to Australia to help heals the wounds caused by Gallipoli. On 14 august 2014, a live highlight service will take place at Glasgow after the close of Commonwealth Games. The queen and heads of state will attend in remembrance of the decision to go to war.

1914, a Home Rule Bill was passed by House of commons and was backed by the Liberal government but due to the timing of the war which started the same year, the bill was never passed to be a law in the constitution.

During the war Scotland lost 149,000 men which was even twice the number of the people who died in other parts of Britain. For example, Lewis signed up 6,712 men and only 17 Percent never came back, Glasgow sent 200,000 men and lost 17,695.

A Germany Zeppelin raided Edinburgh in 1916 which led to the area being converted to an airfield. A Northern British company in Fountainbridge made over one million boots for the soldiers who were fighting on the Western front. Dr William Halse Rivers, a Scottish, volunteered to offer psychiatric therapy to the soldiers to help them go through the trauma of war in a Military Hospital which was a decaying health spa in Edinburgh.

Tom Bell, John Wheatley and John Maclean organized a spate of strikes in 1915 against rent raise and employment of women in heavy industries. This led to the arrest of James Maxton and John Muir but John Maclean would pay a higher price of 3 years in jail. Emergent Labour Party was founded due to the socialist idealism. Jimmy Reid Foundation wants this legacy marked next year; they have even contacted Glasgow City Council requesting that plaque be erected to “write back into history”.

Max Hasting a historian argues in his new book, “Catastrophe 1914,” that Germany would have swept away democracy from Europe, and it was necessary for the British to go to war.

According to THE SCOTSMAN, Stephen McGanty argues that even with the BBC dedication of 2500 hours programming nothing much will come out.

Steve Khalif

Steve Khalif is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE