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The Struggle a Century Ago

At the outset of the centenary of WW1, or The Great War, I was at a banquet and watched an octet perform two songs from that era, one of them being the well-known Danny Boy. I asked if they had an album, lest we forget, and they did not, so I recorded an album with some help from my friends, which is called Sacrifice and Solace. This is a blog dedicated to helping people today understand the struggle people faced at home and at the front, one hundred years ago.

In four short years, from 1914 to 1918, over 10 million men and women serving in armed forces on fronts around the world were killed, while double that number were wounded, disabled and disfigured; and at least another 7 million civilians lost their lives as well. Most died horrific deaths. But as time passes by we tend to forget, a century later, how many sacrifices were made day after day on both sides of one the most deadly conflicts in human history. Civilized Productions has produced a wonderful choral album, Sacrifice and Solace, which features an octet called the Toronto Valour Ensemble who sang these carefully selected and uniquely composed songs from that era. It is available on CD Baby. The simple translation of the Arabic word "jihad" is struggle.

The Struggle a Century Ago

A hundred years ago Britain ruled the waves and, with military precision, the world's resources landed at its doorstep. Acquiring raw material by the boatload and financing these daily shipments was one matter, but marketing the finished goods to qualified buyers was quite another. To facilitate supply and demand, professionals were needed across this spectrum of economic activity to manage the limited capacity of their ports.

Nelson had won at Trafalgar and Wellington at Waterloo a century before, and during the reign of Queen Victoria her armed forces went on to assert control of an empire spanning the globe. Shortly after her death in 1901 and a victory in sunny southern Africa a year later, expert administrators of the British Empire viewed global domination as common sense, as there was no one better to effectively maximize their procurements more efficiently.

For Britain, having done so for centuries, taking by force was one tried and true method of acquisition, yet it was found the integrated process of buying and selling was much more civil, and in fact left behind a consumer with money in hand. However, in a rapidly emerging industrialized world, there were sleeping giants among them and change was afoot. Acquiring consumers was the reason nations would soon go to war, not necessarily protecting trade routes.

Unbeknownst to the Old World, oil-powered motor cars would soon enough upset the apple cart, as would certainly electricity. Profits were paramount on a global level, and American industrialists knew Britain could not afford to keep their shipping lanes open.

In 1914, Britain needed to destroy two empires in order to foster commonwealth trade: The Ottoman Empire and The Austro-Hungarian Empire. Facing these two obstacles, among her colonies fervent men were readily trained in the art of modern war, to obey British commands, to bravely stand and fight and assure the safe passage of resources and goods across the world.

By 1918 millions had died.

by Graeme Boyce    12/12/2018


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