1937: ‘We have never had Peace. We have not even got Armistice. What we have now is War without the engagement of great armies and fleets. The hellish implements of slaughter pour out to the multitudes of training troops. Yet what is it 300 million Europeans want? They want Peace and comfort. Is it not worth while to make the great effort, the supreme effort on the grandest scale to prevent Armistice lapsing into actual War, and to make Armistice ripen into real Peace? These are my thoughts for Armistice Day.’
‘What we knew and felt about war was not made only of books and films. The First War had been translated into monuments and ceremonies, and those remembrances told a different story from the soldiers’ narratives and still do. At the Cenotaph in London, the flags, the bands, and the old men with their medals, marching, aren’t a demonstration against war; they testify to pride and sacrifice, and say that though war may be terrible, it is also great, the greatest experience most men will have. Other ceremonies do the same: the two-minute silence kept at 11.00 a.m. on Armistice Day when I was a schoolboy was full of awe; something had happened at that time that was worthy of our reverence.
‘And so, when war came, we enlisted. The conclusion is obvious: in matters of war, cautionary literature and the evidence of experience do not change many minds or alter many romantic expectations. Every new generation will respond anew to war’s great seduction not to the uniforms and parades but to the chance to be where danger is, where men are fighting. War brings to any society its electric, exhilarating atmosphere, and young men rush to join it, however grim the stories of war they have read and accepted as the truth. Every generation, it seems, must learn its own lessons from its own war, because every war is different and is fought by different ignorant young men.’