The years from 1880 to 1914 saw
in Europe a vast increase in industrial output, the expansion of rail
and steam shipping, the importation of food from the New World on a
scale undreamt of before, so that populations grew at unprecedented
rates. The rising living standards and employment opportunities in
central Europe attracted millions of people from the east away from
their poverty, exploitation and often cruel persecution.
In addition, Victorian certainties were
being challenged, indeed often shattered, in social, political,
scientific, industrial, commercial and artistic spheres, thus
creating a sense of uncertainty. Iconoclasm in the arts abounded to
the immense shock of the people. In Europe, new music and painting
became dissonant and violent. Attitudes everywhere in Central Europe
became anxious and then agitated leading to revolutionary movements.
People became alarmed about their future.
The vast size and efficiency of the German
army and navy, its industry and technology, was in sharp contrast to
its hopelessly out of date political system. This ensured the
military caste who surrounded the Kaiser's (King's)
absolute authority - and their privileges
Having no say in government but having to
pay for it, in 1913 the people began to demonstrate in Berlin.
As ever - when unable to control political
unrest at home - tyrants identify a foreign 'enemy' .
The Kaiser was, like many German people at that time. He - and they - considered that the demonstrators and
strikers should be shot.
Because of many deep seated national and
international tensions, the German people became more and more like
their Kaiser - morally mentally and politically unstable; then more
and more belligerent, to the great alarm of Germany's neighbours.
France had never forgiven her defeat by
Germany and the loss in 1871 of Alsace and Lorraine. She feared
another German attack.
Russia and the Austro-Hungarian Empire were
also both industrialising at a very fast pace and like Germany also
had antiquated governments which caused revolutionary
Russia and France were allies - a perfect
situation to justify the Kaiser and his Prussian militarists to
increase vastly the German Army and Navy.
It was not just the Kaiser who caused the
war, it was also the arrogant Prussian militarists who surrounded and
manipulated the vainglorious fool. The blind submission of the German
people to such men - as this story of Churchill's life will relate -
was to be the cause of immense suffering twice in
the 20th century.
All the major European powers had overseas
and European . These required armies to maintain control over these
subject races; and they did so - often with great cruelty when
insurrections took place. Russia occupied part of Poland; the Austro
- Hungarian Empire controlled Bosnia. Britain ruled Ireland and had
the largest empire the world had ever known - thus the need for naval
supremacy. France occupied large areas of North Africa and the Far
East. In all these territories there were revolutionary conspiracies
which made both rulers and ruled nervous.
In 1914 the heir to the Austro-Hungarian
Empire, Arch Duke Franz Ferdinand, visited the outskirts of his
empire - a place called Sarajevo in the Balkans. This area was then -
as as it is still today - a place of many conflicting racial,
religious and political hatreds. During his visit an attempt by
Nationalist members of The Black Hand Movement to kill him with a
bomb failed, but the bomb injured people in the following car. After
completing his official duties that day, he and his wife went to the
hospital to comfort the injured. Upon their return a young man jumped
upon the running board of the car and shot them dead.
The upshot was that the Austrian Emperor
Franz Joseph - with Kaiser's support - declared war on Serbia.
Suddenly European alliance and treaty
obligations came into force: Russia went to Serbia's aid, France to
the aid of Russia, Germany to Austria, and after Germany's invasion
of Belgium, Britain's to Belgium. No-one realised it but a world war
Pre War. Winston observing the
Kaiser and his entourage.
Churchill is photographed on this page at
German manoeuvres in 1913. He was in fact observing first hand and
with an eagle eye Germany's ever increasing military
The desk on which the Kaiser signed the
declaration of war has recently been discovered in an attic at
Potsdam. It is made out of wood from HMS Victory and is carved in the
form of Nelson's ship Victory. Along the back of the desk are flags
forming Nelson's signal: "England
expects this day that every man will do his duty." Signing the Declaration of War upon that table, the
Kaiser sent a million Englishmen (and a million Germans also) to
their quite needless deaths. He never expressed any sorrow about this
after the war. He never suffered any discomfort nor lost his own
life, nor did he know or even care about other peoples' lives. Such
can be the ignorance and arrogance of Kings. He was allowed to live
as an exile very comfortably after the war - though no longer
permitted to be the king.
Such is the irony of history!
As you can see now - after years of planning
and preparation for war and to expand her empire and thus keep her
industries and armies busy, upon his foolish - indeed wicked -
orders, Germany suddenly invaded her neighbours and tried to
England went to war in their defence.