World War 1

How did mothers of the solders in World War 1 feel?

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2011-09-13 06:09:21
2011-09-13 06:09:21

I'm sure there's a WWI buff out there with a better answer, but I'll start it. It's hard to say how individual people felt, but. . . In France, Germany and Britain there was initially widespread support for the War, because all three countries felt they were fighting for their very survival. They also had no doubt when the war started in Oct. that it would be over by Christmas.

After the first year or two, support was still high, but the casualties were so horrible that many people became discouraged. For example, of the BEF, the original 249,000 men the British sent to France, only about 10% survived the war. Many were killed the first year. French losses were so heavy that by the end of the war, 60% of French men 18-40 had been killed or injured. Remember this was at a time when the average life expectancy in France was 44, so it was like us having 70 year-old-men fighting.

Why were there so many casualties the first year? Past experience had led British and especially French commanders to believe that machine guns would be unreliable and ineffective. Pre-war trials showed the guns exploded, killing their operators, more often than they succeeded. So, the British and especially the French just kept throwing infantry in close ranks at the machine guns. . . and the men were mowed down, literally like fields of wheat being cut.

I don't know that mothers have ever been enthusiastic supporters of war, but the French generally accepted it as a necessary evil. (Or perhaps, a perpetual male folly that recurred in every generation.) And, both the French and British people had no idea how horrible fighting conditions actually were. They were being told the war was going well and would be over within months. Remember, until the Vietnam era introduced live coverage of war on the six o'clock news, the horrors of war were not generally known at home, or among civilians. War was still considered an honorable adventure for courageous young men, at least at the beginning of WWI.

Americans were even more removed from the realities of the war, because it was on a different continent. Also, we entered the war so late (after 3 years of bitter fighting) that many of the worst horror were over by then. Still, many American women were reluctant for their sons to fight on foreign soil, but many of the soldiers treated it like a lark, kind of a combination football game and road trip.

AnswerWell, I can't speak for all the mothers, especially those from countries other than the US, but my grandmother was one of those who lost a son in WWI. Of course they were worried about their sons and grieved when they died, but on the whole, they were proud of their service and sacrifice. Their front windows displayed a red star for each son (or daughter) in the service and a gold star for each one lost. There weren't any Cindy Sheahan's protesting outside the White House.
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