It was supposed to be the war to end all wars, and the sheer destructiveness of World War I was unprecedented for its time. More than 30 countries were involved, 65m men volunteered or were conscripted to fight and millions of civilians contributed to the war effort. Around 16m people died. And many of those who survived came home from the war psychologically and physically scarred for life.
This year marks the centenary of the end of the conflict and this episode of The Anthill podcast is focused on stories from the Great War, and the way it is being remembered 100 years later.
First, our host Annabel Bligh talks to Sean Lang, senior lecturer in history at Anglia Ruskin University, about how the Armistice came about at 11am on November 11, 1918 – and why it wasn’t actually the end of the fighting.
Next, we travel up to Scotland to hear from Neil McLennan, senior lecturer in education at the University of Aberdeen, about how he came across the letter which proved that three of the great World War I poets – Wilfred Owen, Siegfried Sasson and Robert Graves – actually met at a golf club near the Craiglockhart War Hospital in Edinburgh. McLennan and Paul Ferguson, associate professor of audio engineering at Edinburgh Napier University, also explain the genesis of a special concert they are organising to mark the centenary of the Armistice – involving musicians from all over the world.
And finally we hear what life was like for the men who refused to fight during the conflict. Lois Bibbings, professor of law, gender and history at the University of Bristol, explains how the clause which allowed men to object on the grounds of conscience was introduced when conscription began in Britain in 1916. Aled Eirug, senior lecturer at the school of management at Swansea University, whose grandfather was a conscientious objector in World War I, explains what life was like for some of the men who chose to go to work camps set up by the Home Office. And we hear from Ingrid Sharp, professor of German cultural and gender history at the University of Leeds, on the few men who refused to join the military in Germany, and how life was even tougher for them.
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Thank you to City, University of London’s Department of Journalism for letting us use their studios to record The Anthill.
Picture source: Shutterstock, A_Lesik
YouTube: British Army, The Last Post for Remembrance
Church bells by Hereford District.
The Lads of Quintinshill, 1915 by Thoren Ferguson
Armistice by Thoren Ferguson, courtesy of Neil McLennan and Paul Ferguson.
Free Music Archive: David Hilowitz, Time Passing I
The Anthill theme music is by Alex Grey for Melody Loops