One hundred years ago, the First World War started, leading to the deaths of nearly 40 million people*, and setting off events that led to the Bolshevik Revolution, the present day Middle East and ultimately Hitler and the Second World War. It was a historical cataclysm. Humanity had experience of wars of stunning dreadfulness before, of course. The Thirty Years War, the Dutch Revolt, you name ‘em. But these were localized. WW1 caused suffering the world over – vast losses in East Africa, for example – to presage the genuine world-wideness of the Second World War. The Spanish ‘flu pandemic, helped by starvation and exhaustion, killed another 50 million.
So how does George Osborne commemorate the event in today’s Financial Times ? With an article praising the civil servants and bankers who worked in London to preserve the financial system. At first, I thought this was an extract from the Onion, but no. Our Chancellor genuinely thinks he is naming the hidden heroes of the Great War. You couldn’t, as they say, make it up.
*including my great uncle Frederick Daly, of the Canadian Infantry, killed in 1917 and buried near Arras.