Gimmicks are insulting First World War Centenary, says historian

Posted on on 08 May 2014
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A warfare historian has claimed events lined up to commemorate the centenary of the First World War, such as a football match backed by Prince William, are gimmicks which are insulting to the heroism and horrors experienced by those who gave their lives.

Dr Clare Makepeace, a Teaching Fellow at University College, London, says her initial excitement at the centenary and the opportunities it offers has turned to despair.

The last straw for her was the announcement this week of plans for a football match to commemorate the famous christmas truce, one of the most remembered events of the conflict.

Prince William

The idea for a football match has been backed by both Prince William, President of the England Football Association,  and England footballer Theo Walcott.

But Dr Makepeace has attacked the idea as a gimmick along with another plan to turn the lights out on August 4 to mark Britain's declaration of war on Germany and handing poppy seeds to children to help them remember the First World War.

Dr Makepeace says: "Gimmick now seems to be the word that accompanies any announcement about an event that will make up the centenary of the First World War."


She says she started the year with "great excitement."

"How naive I was. In the past month, I've noticed things descend remarkably rapidly downhill. My excitement has dissolved, to be replaced by disappointment, despair and now serious consternation."

She adds: "For someone who has spent the last decade researching people's experiences of warfare, reading unflinching accounts of how war destroys, maims, and ruins lives, I was frustrated and despaired by how wrong, how misplaced, how insulting it is to commemorate the fighting with pretty, upbeat activities."

Other academics have hit out at the Lights Out plan for being a gimmick. And there have been complaints that commemorations at the Menin Gate are turning into a circus.

You can read Dr Makepeace's views in our feature section here

Picture courtesy of Imperial War Museum.

Posted by Mike Swain, Centenary News