WWI: Goodbye to all that, again. Niall Ferguson.
Excerpt: To my 19-year-old son, World War I — which ended 100 years ago yesterday — is as remote an event as the Congress of Berlin was to me when I was his age. To my generation, World War I was not quite history. My father’s father, John Ferguson, had joined up at the age of 17 and fought on the Western Front as a private in the Seaforth Highlanders. He was one of more than 6 million men from Great Britain who served. Of that number, 722,785 did not come back alive. Just under half of all those who lost their lives were aged between 16 and 24 — a fact that never fails to startle. John Ferguson was one of the lucky ones who made it home. But — like more than 1.6 million other servicemen — he did not return unscarred. He was shot through the shoulder by a German sniper. He survived a gas attack, though his lungs suffered permanent damage. My grandfather’s most vivid recollection of the war was of a German attack. As the enemy advanced, he and his comrades fixed bayonets and prepared for the order to go “over the top.” At the last moment, however, the command was given to another regiment. So heavy were the casualties in the ensuing engagement that my grandfather felt sure he would have died if it had been the Seaforths’ turn.