SEPTEMBER 1 1914 – A BRITISH SLANT TO HISTORY: ACTION AT NERY

The war began with five major players: Germany and Austria-Hungary on one side, and France, Russia and Britain on the other. Most of them were doomed to inglorious ends in the war:

-Though often considered a powerhouse of military strength to rival Germany in 1914, the French suffered long under leadership which cared not at all for the life of the common soldier. Hundreds of thousands of lives were thrown away for reasons political and/or egotistical, rather than strategic and/or tactical. Worse, sometimes French troops were sent away as cannon fodder for no reason at all.

As a result, 1917 saw the French troops mutiny en masse. Though new leadership managed to hold it together, the French military became useless as a weapon of initiative . . . they could not risk the troops’ trust by sending them on attack. And so the French could not claim to have won the war.

-Russia had problems supplying and coordinating her armies right from the start. Though they managed to overwhelm some, such as the Austro-Hungarians, the Germans chewed them up almost at will. The war caused so much damage to the regime of Tsar Nicholas II that it paved the way for the Communist Revolution. Once in power, the Communists sued for peace, understanding that their armies had been wrecked almost totally by Germany. And so Russia did not even survive to the end of WWI.

-Austria-Hungary had failed to keep herself up to date with military tactics and modernized weapons, even if their situation wasn’t quite as bad as Russia’s. Worse, however, Austro-Hungarian troops probably had the least amount of nationalistic pride among all of the war’s major powers, and so their armies’ morale often suffered. As a result, Austro-Hungarian armies were often not just beaten, but lost their cohesion when bested by their opponents . . . the armies often disintegrated far easier than armies of other nations.

Austria-Hungary became so disproportionately weakened in the first year of war that German leaders would often liken their alliance as being “chained to a corpse.” At the end of the war, Austria-Hungary almost totally ceased to exist, being the target of Woodrow Wilson’s hatred against monarchies, and her territories were mostly carved up and doled out elsewhere.

-Germany, of course, could also not claim much glory from WWI, given the huge reparations which the Entente forced her to pay at the war’s end. Indeed, the ignominy thrust upon her became the rallying cry for Hitler and Germany’s aggression ending in WWII.

-And so, among the major powers which began the war, only Britain could honestly walk away feeling good about anything. An island nation, she not only had never suffered an invasion of her homeland, but had even successfully taken away many of Germany’s foreign possessions. Though much of the war’s end can be rightfully attributed to the added force of the United States’ entry, it was Britain which proved the unmovable, dedicated opponent of Germany from the war’s beginning to its end.

It is because of this that much of the war’s narratives have a distinctly British slant . . . few else wished to speak of the war, it being a mostly rotten memory for them.

And it is because of this that a timeline of WWI pegs September 1, 1914 as significant for a skirmish at Nery: a minor action in which the British delayed the rolling German advance for a little while. Indeed, as an example of the British slant to WWI history, this skirmish is often included for the romantic-heroism of the “Néry Gun” of L Battery: all of the British guns had been silenced except for this one, which continued to fire long into the German attack.

1920px-NéryGunIWMApril2008[1]

The action at Nery did not have a significant impact upon the war. But the end of the war had a significant impact upon whether we read about Nery in the war’s history.

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