War! What’s it good for?

You look for one thing, and you find another.
I wanted to look at a 1932 Douglas Goldring pamphlet about pacifism. This turned out to be fiery, but a bit predictable.
It was bound, though with other pamphlets in the ‘Here and Now’ series published by Wishart, and the one following it was a joy.
A War Museum 1914-1918 is a collection (gathered by Hamish Miles) of press-cuttings from the War years. Mostly they show patriots making idiots of themselves, like the 1914 letter-writer to the Daily Mail who was trying to decide which kind of feather was ‘suitable for presentation by a corps of young ladies to the youths who are preferring their own amusement to the defence of their country’. To give a goose-feather would wrong a noble bird who would fight in defence of its home. He suggests that a tuft of fur from the skunk might be more suitably offered. I’ve often marvelled at the intemperate and bilious comments affixed to articles on the twenty-first century Daily Mail website, and it’s rather a joy to think that the great-grandchildren of whoever write this letter are still seething just as furiously nearly a century later.
But my favourite item in the pamphlet was from the Spectator of 1917. ‘J.F.W.’ sent this list of nineteen ‘benefits that the nation will derive… as a direct result of the war’:

(I was puzzled by the expression ‘ ca’canny’. It means the sly sabotage of output by workmen,  used unofficially by Trades Unionists to force the employers towards a better pay deal.)

I’ve never seen the benefits of war listed like this before, but very many writers of the War years subscribed to the myth of the fortunate war – and pointed out how much good it was doing to social relations, and to men’s souls. The rich became more thoughtful, and the working classes more obedient – or that was what well-meaning people hoped, anyway.


  1. Jane Stemp
    Posted April 26, 2012 at 9:17 pm | Permalink

    Plus ça change, eh?

    Oddly enough I have to go and look at my copy of Douglas Goldring’s “James Elroy Flecker: an appreciation” next time I’m at home to see if he mentions classicist George Leonard Cheesman, killed at Gallipoli (a friend of Flecker’s).

    • michaelbully1
      Posted August 10, 2012 at 4:07 pm | Permalink

      Jane, I got interested in George Leonard Cheesman from reading about his life in Heather Walker\’s \’Roses and Rain\’, the James Elroy Flecker biography.
      Cheesman\’s book on the Auxillia of the Roman Army is on line to read free.
      There is also an interesting thread about him on the Great War Forum.

      • janevsw
        Posted August 10, 2012 at 4:14 pm | Permalink


        Yes – I know! you & I have been conversing on GWF 🙂 (this is my maiden name). Has the photocopy arrived yet!


      • michaelbully1
        Posted August 10, 2012 at 10:09 pm | Permalink

        Hello Jane ! No copy of George Leonard Cheesman biography from New College Archives not arrived as yet. Will let you know when I receive it !

  2. Posted April 30, 2012 at 11:29 pm | Permalink

    This makes sense — Slay the seed of Europe to keep those pesky suffragettes from disrupting Derby Day!

  3. Posted April 30, 2012 at 11:30 pm | Permalink

    Reblogged this on ww1ha and commented:
    Note my comment — Wilfred Owen and Mrs. Pankhurst in one sentence!

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