Daniel Yusefian (12th), Editor

Throughout history, humanity has embroiled itself in conflict. Whether for land, valor, disputes, or religion, man has consistently shown to be a maniacal species. The barbarity committed throughout human history simply cannot be described in one word, a sentence, or even a book. The most we can do as the new generation of humanity, is to remember and study the mistakes of our ancestors, to never let something as awful as the past, become the present.


World War 1 is one such event we should continually keep in our memory. It occurred from July 28th 1914, to November 11th 1918, leaving 40 million casualties, 20 million being deaths. The war annihilated Europe and a generation of men was left broken, physically and mentally. Up until the war, serving your country with unquestionable loyalty in conflict was an honor, and dying for it was the greatest feat one could accomplish. World War 1 changed this perception, for the better.


We often forget that each soldier was their own person, with experiences that shape them no different from how they shape us. It’s easy to view a graph of the number of dead, however it’s difficult to truly visualize just how many of these men had a future and an identity.


I feel as though a personal account of the war has a greater impact on how we think and perceive it, than a description of a battle in a textbook or website. Personal accounts give us the opportunity to truly see how awful conditions were from the soldier’s perspective.  It’s for that reason, I’ve compiled 2 personal accounts of the war to share today. Sharing more would be phenomenal, but for the sake of time and word count, I can only limit it to 2. 


The first account is from Leonard Thompson, a laborer from Suffolk England as he describes his experience in the Dardanelles campaign against the Ottomans.


“On 6 June my favourite officer was killed and no end of us butchered, but we managed to get hold of Hill 13 again. We found a great muddle, carnage and men without rifles shouting “Allah! Allah!” which is God’s name in the Turkish language. Of the 60 men I had started out to war from Harwich with, there were only three left.

We set to work to bury people. We pushed them into the sides of the trench but bits of them kept getting uncovered and sticking out, like people in a badly made bed. Hands were the worst; they would escape from the sand, pointing, begging – even waving! There was one which we all shook when we passed, saying, “Good morning”, in a posh voice. Everybody did it. The bottom of the trench was springy like a mattress because of all the bodies underneath. At night, when the stench was worse, we tied crepe round our mouths and noses. This crepe had been given to us because it was supposed to prevent us being gassed.


The flies entered the trenches at night and lined them completely with a density which was like moving cloth. We killed millions by slapping our spades along the trench walls but the next night it would be just as bad. We were all lousy and we couldn’t stop shitting because we had caught dysentery. We wept, not because we were frightened but because we were so dirty.”


This next account is from Willi Siebert, a German soldier who participated in, and witnessed the first chlorine gas attack of the war. He wrote this account for his son.

“Finally, we decided to release the gas. The weatherman was right. It was a beautiful day, the sun was shining. Where there was grass, it was blazing green. We should have been going on a picnic, not doing what we were going to do. …


We sent the [German] infantry back and opened the [gas] valves with the strings. About supper time, the gas started toward the French; everything was stone quiet. We all wondered what was going to happen.


As this great cloud of green grey gas was forming in front of us, we suddenly heard the French yelling. In less than a minute they started with the most rifle and machine gun fire that I had ever heard. Every field artillery gun, every machine gun, every rifle that the French had, must have been firing. I had never heard such a noise.


The hail of bullets going over our heads was unbelievable, but it was not stopping the gas. The wind kept moving the gas towards the French lines. We heard the cows bawling, and the horses screaming. The French kept on shooting.


They couldn’t possibly see what they were shooting at. In about 15 minutes the gun fire started to quit. After a half hour, only occasional shots. Then everything was quiet again. In a while it had cleared and we walked past the empty gas bottles.


What we saw was total death. Nothing was alive.


All of the animals had come out of their holes to die. Dead rabbits, moles, and rats and mice were everywhere. The smell of the gas was still in the air. It hung on the few bushes which were left.


When we got to the French lines the trenches were empty but in a half mile the bodies of French soldiers were everywhere. It was unbelievable. Then we saw there were some English. You could see where men had clawed at their faces, and throats, trying to get breath.

Some had shot themselves. The horses, still in the stables, cows, chickens, everything, all were dead. Everything, even the insects were dead.


World War 1 was undoubtedly, the most important event of modern human history. It caused empires to collapse, such as the Ottomans and Russians, but birthed new ones like the Soviet Union. The end of the war also brought growing frustration and resentment by the Germans which would play an enormous part in the beginning of World War II and the creation of the atomic bomb, which began the nuclear arms race and the Cold War, inevitably causing the Cuban Missile Crisis and numerous nuclear war close calls that would’ve caused destruction on an ungodly and irreversible scale.


War is awful, it’s barbaric and it brings out the worst of humanity in the name of nationalism or greed. War never changes, it will always be man shooting man for the purpose of attaining a goal that most of the time, will not benefit them in any way, this is especially true for modern wars where the elite pull the strings and corporate avarice leads the charge. 

The men who died in the “War to End All Wars” will never grow old, they will never hold their mothers and fathers close, and their individual sacrifice will sadly never be acknowledged, but, we need to do all we can to remember the impact the first World War had on the world, and the impact it had on the idea of war.


In Flanders fields the poppies blow

Between the crosses, row on row,

    That mark our place; and in the sky

    The larks, still bravely singing, fly

Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago

We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,

    Loved and were loved, and now we lie,

        In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:

To you from failing hands we throw

    The torch; be yours to hold it high.

    If ye break faith with us who die

We shall not sleep, though poppies grow

        In Flanders fields.