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Edwin Lutyens

As well as designing the cenotaph in Whitehall, Edwin Lutyens was one of three main architects to the Imperial War Graves Commission, with Herbert Baker and Reginald Blomfield. He designed The Great War Stone (1917); Etaples Military Cemetery (1919); Memorial to the Missing and Cemetery, Faubourg d'Amiens. Arras (1924-25); Memorial to the Missing of the Somme, Thiepval (1926-27) and the Villers-Bretoneux Military Cemetery, Somme (c1927-32), as well as many other cemeteries in France.

At the beginning of the 20th century Britain's superpower status was maintained by its navy. By 1912, despite having an abundance of coal, the navy converted its warship to burn oil. It did not have its own oil but it knew where it could get it.

A few years later when the US military wanted to send 2 million soldiers to fight in the trenches in Europe the administration realised that gathering and transporting all the men, their equipment and horses with their fodder across the Atlantic was going to be an near impossible task. Undaunted by the failure of previous attempts at using petrol driven vehicles when attacking Mexico it ordered the fledgling car industry to produce thousands of trucks which were duly delivered to the ports by train - roads at that time were potholed, decrepit and unsuited for motor vehicles.

During the course of the war Britain and America unleashed their petrol burning machines - 163,000 vehicles and 70,000 aircraft against Germany’s largely coal fired trucks. On November 18 ten days after Germany surrendered Lord Curzon a member of the British war cabinet and later foreign secretary declared the Allied force’s triumph as petroleum’s. ‘The Allied cause had floated to victory upon a wave of oil.’

Britannic House in the City, for the Anglo-Persian Oil Company, was the first of many Lutyens post-war commercial commissions in London. War and oil are frequent companions. The building has recently been sold to BP and is now their International headquarters.  

It gradually became obvious to some doctors that that some men at the front were suffering from non-physical injuries from what became know as shell-shock.

Some doctors argued that the only cure for shell-shock was a complete rest away from the fighting. Officer were likely to be sent back home to recuperate but the army was less sympathetic to ordinary soldiers with shell-shock. Some senior officers took the view that these men were cowards who were trying to get out of fighting.

Between 1914 and 1918 the British Army identified 80,000 men (2% of those who saw active service) as suffering from shell-shock. many more soldiers with these symptoms were classified as 'malingerers' and sent back to the front-line. Some these committed suicide; some broke down under the pressure and refused to obey the orders, some deserted. Sometimes soldiers who disobeyed orders were shot on the spot, some were court-martialled. 304 British soldiers were executed.