"You will be home before the leaves have fallen from
their trees." As in most war, the first casualty was the truth. When Europe slid from a nervous peace into raging war, almost everyone anticipated a brisk, spectacular and triumphant campaign. In the summer of July 1914, war was a great and glorious suggestion. Not yet real, a 'good ole biff' was a glamorous image that appealed to soldiers and civilians alike. Indeed, attitudes towards war were most enthusiastic and joyous amongst almost everybody in both Britain and Germany.
It had been a long time since either side had experienced a real war. For Britain, it had been a century since any large-scale violence. Not since 1871 had any German seen a bloody battle. As it was, not even anybodies great grandfather could tell the people what it is like to live in war. By 1914, enough time had passed for the ugliness of war to be clouded by romance.
A joyous crusading mood swept Europe as the righteousness of each nation was indubitable. It was built into the psyche of Britain and Germany that it was the other side that was up to no good and stirring for a fight.
Everybody willfully accepted that it war guilt was completely on the hands of the enemy. Prime Minister Asquith of Britain announced to parliament, "No nation has ever entered a great conflict with a clearer conscience or stronger conviction to defend principles vital to the civilized world." Ironically, claims to righteousness were echoed in Germany. Popular culture, in the form of poetry, novels and cartoons, celebrated the arrival of a chance to show the greatness of your nation. In Germany in particular, the whole population had embraced the culture of war with books and poems celebrating its glory topping the...