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War And Conflict

28 Jun War And Conflict

This week I listened on the radio to a very moving account of one man’s visit to a rarely visited war cemetery in northern Italy. Located in the hills near Asiego are the graves of 712 young British soldiers killed in the later stages of the First World War. Many of the  men who fought in northern Italy arrived straight from the killing fields of northern France. Although the climate was far more hospitable, it created a whole new set of problems including mosquitoes and malaria. The pine woods scattered along the mountainside also added a new dimension to the conflict often bursting into flames under heavy artillery bombardments. Perhaps most significantly the troops were forced to live in trenches blasted out of solid rock. When shells struck the trenches shrapnel and razor sharp pieces of rock combined together in a lethal and deadly manner. The young men who lost their lives are referred to as ˜the forgotten soldiers” of World War One; their graves rarely being seen by British visitors. Their last resting place is a beautifully preserved cemetery located in the Italian mountainside where the only sound is: ˜birdsong pure and sweet”. I couldn’t help being ever so slightly touched by this very poignant account of a small number of men, at least in terms of the overall loss of life in the Great War, who perished at the start of the 20th Century in this beautiful but lethal location. Research published this week by researchers at the University of Warwick has highlighted that the number of wars has risen steadily by, on average, 2% a year between 1870 and 2001. Professor Mark Harrison from the University of Warwick writes:”The number of conflicts has been rising on a stable trend. Because of two world wars, the pattern is obviously disturbed between 1914 and 1945 but remarkably, after 1945 the frequency of wars resumed its upward course on pretty much the same path as before 1913. More pairs of countries have clashed because there have been more pairs. This is not reassuring: it shows that there is a close connection between wars and the creation of states and new borders. Besides, no matter how you divide it, we have only one planet. Our planet has already seen two world wars. As that experience suggests, you can never be quite sure what little conflicts will not suddenly snowball into much wider, more deadly struggles.A more detailed account of the research can be found by clicking here. It makes fascinating if somewhat disturbing reading.

This year also marks the 75th anniversary of the beginning of the Spanish Civil War. Over 500,000 people lost their lives  during the conflict including 525 volunteers from Britain and Ireland. The British Security Service, fearful of the spread of communism, kept a record of all those involved in the conflict detailing the movements of all of the volunteers as they left British ports to fight as members of the International Brigades in some of the most bloody battles of the conflict. All of these records have now been digitised and, for a short time, can be downloaded from the national archives. These men have been given due recognition-no longer seen as threats to the British state but as some of the first of their generation to take up arms against the spread of Fascism. This is an excellent historical resource providing an insight into the role of both British men and women in the Spanish Civil War.

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