Germany is asking us not to “celebrate” the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War. That’s understandable; they started it and they lost. But to see our celebrations in a Jingoistic context is to is misunderstand who we are. Britain was not under threat from Germany, we did not have to go to war but we chose to over a matter of principle and that is what is worth celebrating. Doubly so because it was a popular cause. Millions of young men of every social standing, encouraged by wives and mothers, signed-up and went to war. We could have just turned our back, but we didn’t. And we went to war again in 1939. Another war we didn’t have to fight but which we chose to, again over a principle.
What we should celebrate is being willing as a nation to stand up for what we believe is right, even when our own narrow national interests are not at stake. That’s something many countries whose freedom we fought for might appreciate. Above all, this was to be the war to end all wars and the fact it didn’t makes it something of a tragic anniversary, especially given the human cost. Our celebrations should therefore also remember that cost which is something we do on Armistice Day every year but which will have a special poignancy this year. The millions of Germans who died should also be remembered, they unlike us didn’t have any choice, they were thrust into that war by their leaders.
Our other European friends however wish to celebrate the anniversary as a paean to the European Union. How facile. “The European Union meant that no European nation would go to war with another,” they say. No it didn’t, NATO did that and it was as a by-product of ensuring the Russians wouldn’t invade us. Now the Russian threat has gone Europe’s true colours are emerging. The possibility of armed confrontation between EU member states is no longer unthinkable because they put their own interests first. The fact that the EU enables them to do that makes it part of the problem, not part of the solution as the Europhiles would have us believe. The EU promotes selfishness and self-interest, the very opposite of the attitude of a century ago.
In the First World War and in every war since, Britain fought unstintingly for liberty. The 100th anniversary therefore could be a celebration of the spirit of liberty; a beacon for the rest of the world. Those who fought the Great War hoped it would not only be the war to end all wars, but when it ended they really believed they had brought about a lasting peace. That prospect could be brought closer if there was a call for all countries to do what is right and not just what is in their own narrow national interests. Then there would be much to celebrate.
Read: Germany intervenes in WW1 commemoration debate in the Telegraph.