I recall trying in vain to put the bits together, to somehow bring Frankie back to life. As I picked up what was left of him I could feel the hate burning inside me. For the next three or four weeks our section never brought in a single prisoner, in spite of the fact that the battle was nearly over and the enemy were surrendering in droves.
So long as no officer was there to witness, we shot as many as we could until our anger died its own death. Over the years since, friends have told me that I have nothing to feel guilty about, that my mates and I were only doing our duty. I fought in the Second World War from its start in to its fiery end in May By the time I got home I had witnessed things that I had not thought possible, and my brain was filled with images of suffering that were to haunt me for the next forty years.
In that brave new post-war world it seemed to me that even a frown could get me in front of a magistrate on a charge of "disturbing the peace". I had started out like all my comrades, soldiers, sailors and airmen, with a laugh and a song, and finished up a prisoner of war in the ashes and rubble of Dresden, surrounded by pyres of burnt bodies. I was a paratrooper, captured at Arnhem. On a work detail I had sabotaged a factory and been sentenced to death.
On the night of 13 February I was in Dresden waiting execution. That was the night the city was bombed. My prison was blasted open and I escaped into the fire storm. The days that followed changed me more than anything that I had seen in all of the rest of the war. From that time onwards I felt I had to oppose authority whenever and wherever it raised its head.
It was only after many years that I realised how much heartache and misery my anger caused to those I loved. After I was demobbed in I began to do things over which I had no control. The first time was a Saturday evening. Someone was playing the piano and we were all laughing and joking. What happened next I remember only as a series of blurred movements.
The tall chap made a remark about Freda which caused some laughter but made Freda look uneasy. In a flash the man was being dragged across the table, all the glasses were sent flying and there I was, being hauled off the lad whose face was now covered in blood. One of them paratroopers. Bonkers if yer ask me. It just was not the done thing".
The decline of the upper classes was further hastened by the introduction of broad universal suffrage in Europe.
The extension of the franchise, coupled with an explosion in trade unionism, afforded the working classes greater political and social representation. The various armies had also to promote new officers from humble backgrounds who were not willing to continue the culture of deference to the upper classes.
United Kingdom home front during World War II - Wikipedia
It also forced women into jobs that had previously been a male preserve. Many of the women whom the war effort had forced out of domestic service and into factories found themselves unwilling to relinquish their new independence. The War also sparked a peace movement that had disarmament as its main aim. It flourished briefly in the inter-war years, was reborn during the Vietnam War and found many adherents in Europe e. Although less formally organised than during the s, the anti-war movement in Europe showed its strength in the mass demonstrations against the US led invasion of Iraq in The war also had major consequences for the European socialist and labour movement.
Although well organised in many countries, including Britain, France and Germany, the socialist movement failed to stop the war in Initially skilled workers in the armaments industry were not only exempted from military service but also enjoyed higher wages and better food in return for the banning of strike action. But as the war continued living and working conditions for factory workers gradually declined.
Socialist groups began to agitate for peace, a process that received a boost as a result of the Russian revolution. At the end of the war in the socialist and trade union movement was much stronger than in The Great War also saw the introduction of the planned economy and a much bigger role for the state. Soon after the outbreak of war the German government took control over banks, foreign trade and the production and sale of food as well as armaments.
It also set maximum prices for various goods. When the Bolsheviks took power in Russia in they embarked on a vast nationalisation programme and later a comprehensive planned economy.
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The planned economy also had its adherents in other countries, especially after the twin shocks of hyperinflation in the s and the Great Crisis of The conflict had a global impact. In the Middle East, for example, the British and French promised different things to the Arabs and the Jews in return for their support against the Ottoman Empire. Under the infamous Sykes-Picot agreement, London and Paris carved out respective spheres of influence in what was to become Iraq, Syria and Lebanon.
But at the same time the British promised the Jews a homeland in Palestine under the equally infamous Balfour Declaration laying the foundations for the emergence of Israel and the world's most intractable contemporary conflict.
When the British deceit was exposed it led to a permanent feeling of mistrust between many Arabs and European colonial powers. Many analysts point to the European carve up of the Middle East in with the many artificial borders as the root cause of the continuing turmoil in the region today.
Ethnic, sectarian and tribal differences were of little concern to the colonial-era map-makers. Iraq was formed by merging three Ottoman provinces - dominated respectively by Shias, Sunnis and Kurds.
It was also cut off from Kuwait — the genesis of trouble later. The biggest losers of the post-war lottery in the Middle East were the Kurds. Nowadays this still stateless people enjoy a high degree of regional autonomy — as well as relative peace — in federal Iraq while their compatriots in Syria and Turkey face challenges from Damascus and Ankara. As regards the map of Europe, the Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian Empires were broken up and drastically shrunk, while Poland, Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia were all born or reborn as nation states.
Russia underwent the Bolshevik Revolution that would have a major impact on European and world history. Germany was reduced in size and forced to pay substantial reparations. The Kaiser went into exile, and Germany plunged into economic and political chaos that paved the way for the rise of Hitler. The new countries were poor and often in conflict with each other. US President Wilson had talked about transparent international agreements, unfettered access to the seas and the lifting of trade barriers.
These would prove utopian as was his concept of borders based on ethnicity, a concept that would be the precursor to many conflicts. The biggest of the new countries was Poland, which had disap-peared from the map for over a century after being partitioned in In when its bor-ders were finally settled, Poland had relatively good relations with only two neighbours — tiny Latvia to the north and a distant Romania to the south.
If the Treaty of Versailles was deemed harsh then the Treaty of Trianon was arguably much harsher, leaving Hungary as a much reduced state with millions of Hungarians outside its borders. These minority issues were suppressed during the communist era but resurfaced post causing major problems between Romania and Hungary and Slovakia and Hungary. Inevitably the EU was also drawn into attempts to resolve these minority issues. It was late in entering the war, only in , but emerged far stronger than most other nations as it had not suffered either the bloodletting or the wasted industrial effort of the major European nations.
Their experience and loss of life helped push demands for independence. India alone sent some , troops to fight for Britain. More than 10, never returned home. The First World War also heralded the birth of the League of Nations, a body of nation states to promote international peace and security. In the US would adopt a different approach. The financial crash of brought misery across Europe. Few in Western Europe believed that Hitler was deadly serious about creating a Greater Reich across the European continent.
There were also concerns that the reparations that had been demanded by France at Versailles had been too harsh, a view expressed eloquently in The Economic Consequences of the Peace by John Maynard Keynes. When London and Paris finally awoke to the threat it was too late. By Hitler controlled half of Europe after a stunning series of Blitzkrieg victories. In , just thirteen years after the proclamation of the one thousand year Reich it was all over.
Germany was divided and lay in ruins. It was the greatest and deadliest war in human history, with over 57 million lives lost. In combat, approximately eight million Russians, four million Germans, two million Chinese and one million Japanese soldiers lost their lives.
Britain and France each lost hundreds of thousands. The civilian toll was probably higher — an estimated 22 million Soviet citizens were killed, and six million Jews in the Holocaust. It would take a coalition of the UK, the US and the Soviet Union to defeat Hitler after six years of bloody warfare that again brought widespread death and destruction to Europe — and to many other parts of the world. The war was not confined to Europe. It affected the Middle East, Africa and Asia causing untold suffering, not least when atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in The war also increased demands for independence throughout much of the colonial empires still in European possession — the Dutch in Indonesia, the French in South East Asia, the Belgians in Central Africa, the British in India, etc.
This was a particularly traumatic and drawn out process for the French, in Algeria and in Vietnam where they fought prolonged and bitter wars in an attempt to maintain their colonial control. The defining paradigm for the next half century would be the Cold War. The Russian people had suffered immeasurably during the war, and western Russia was devastated by the land warfare which was primarily on Russian territory.
But, in the process of defeating the Germans, the Russians had built a large and powerful army, which occupied most of Eastern Europe at the end of the war.
Spared the physical destruction of war, the US economy dominated the world economy by Vaccinations helped lower mortality rates and boosted population growth.