As we come towards the centenary of the beginning of World War One

Credit: 
David Beresford
Michael Morpurgo

As we come towards the centenary of the beginning of World War One, we will be reflecting no doubt on the reasons that dreadful conflagration was ever allowed to happen, of the consequences for us now of that war, how that war changed our world. We will ponder the lives of those who fought, and those who died, and ask ourselves why they went.  Was it patriotism, was it because others went and you felt you had to go, was it for adventure, was it to fight tyranny, was it for freedom, their freedom, the freedom of those they loved, of those who came after them. Was it for many of these? Was it for us? And if so, was it worth it? Are we worth it? Do we value the freedom they left us, or simply take it for granted? Was it fought for freedom at all, or was all that simply a political smokescreen to cover what was essentially struggle between the great European Powers. Historians will argue, we will debate.

But whatever was the truth behind it all, whatever was the motivation of those who went, we do know that there were those, and they were many, and on all sides, who died selflessly to ensure the freedom and survival of others.

Amongst them was Nurse Edith Cavell, nurse to soldiers of both sides, who was executed in Brussels in 1915, for her part in assisting in the escape of 200 allied soldiers. She did what she did for the liberty of others. She said on the night before her execution, 'Patriotism is not enough. I must have no hatred or bitterness towards anyone'. When we remember the millions who died in World War One over these next four years, let it be with her words in mind.

 

Michael Morpurgo, is an English author, poet, playwright and librettist who is known best for children's novels.

 

While government watches you, who watches the government?