Sir Max Hastings: UK's Centenary must explain that the First World War "was ghastly, but it was not futile"

Posted on on 05 December 2013
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On the BBC current affairs programme, The Daily Politics, Sir Max Hastings and Dr. Andrew Murrison MP took part in a discussion about plans to commemorate the Centenary of the First World War.

Sir Max emphasised the importance of education and explaining the roots and impact of the conflict to a new generation and stated that the focus for 2014-1018 should be commemoration and not celebration.

Dr. Andrew Murrison, the UK Prime Minister's Special Representative for the Centenary Commemorations, agreed that education should be a prominent aspect of the 100 year anniversary, but declared that there would be no "jingoism".

Asked whether or not the issue of German "sensitivities" was influencing how Britain was planning to mark the Centenary, Dr. Murrison said:

"I think that it would be a supreme irony if after the Centenary of the Great War, this terrible conflict, we ended up in an unhappier place - with respect to our current twenty-first century friends and allies - so we have absolutely no intention of flag-waving, or being militaristic or jingoistic".

Discussing the issue of the "futility" of the First World War, and how the conflict is understood by the public in comparison to the Second, Sir Max expressed his hope that "the government's rhetoric for this Centenary is going to say explicitly... there was a cause [which Britain fought for] and that if Germany had won the First World War, it would have been almost as ghastly a catastrophe for Europe, as if Hitler had won in 1940".

He continued that the notion of the Second World War as "the good war" and the First as "the bad war" should also be tackled.

Sir Max concluded the debate by emphasising the importance of education during the Centenary and to "explain there was a cause, that the poets' view, the Blackadder view, that it was all completely futile is simply not true, it was ghastly, but it was not futile".

To watch the debate, visit the BBC News website here.

Images courtesy of the BBC News website

Posted by: Daniel Barry, Centenary News