A selection from the small booklet that I prepare for our office. We go into the boardroom, where there is a poppy on a cross, a lighted candle, and a few pieces to read and reflect upon.
For The Fallen
They went with songs to the battle, they were young,
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted;
They fell with their faces to the foe.
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years contemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.
Laurence Binyon, 1914
Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its labourers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. This is not a way of life at all in any true sense. Under the clouds of war, it is humanity hanging on a cross of iron. (Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1953)
Trenches changed army life. Instead of relying on the daring hand-to-hand combat that had won previous wars, soldiers of World War I lobbed explosives at each other from deep dirt holes. Through curtains of shell-fire, soldiers witnessed unimaginable destruction; the blood of hundreds of thousands of their comrades soaked the fields that separated them from their enemy; heavy artillery ripped huge holes in the earth and could bury men alive. Sitting in their damp, stinking, dirt trenches, soldiers lurked, fearful of peering over the top. And as the war dragged on, the supplies to the front and the numbers of replacements dwindled, leaving tired, hungry soldiers to hold the front.
Excerpt from "Good-bye to All That"
Robert Graves, British army captain
[May 28th 1915]:
Last night a lot of German stuff was flying about, including shrapnel. I heard one shell whish-whishing towards me and dropped flat. It burst just over the trench where 'Petticoat Lane' runs into 'Lowndes Square.' My ears sang as though there were gnats in them, and a bright scarlet light shone over everything. My shoulder got twisted in falling and I thought I had been hit, but I hadn't been. The vibration made my chest sing, too, in a curious way, and I lost my sense of equilibrium. I was ashamed when the sergeant-major came along the trench and found me on all fours, still unable to stand up straight.
Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, MD (1872-1918), Canadian Army:
In Flanders fields the poppies grow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place, and in the sky,
The larks, still bravely singing, fly,
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
Excerpt from The Storm of Steel: An Officer on the Western Front
"Regniéville" [July 1917]
Rations were very poor. Beyond the thin midday soup, there was nothing but the third of a loaf, and something infinitesimal to eat with it, usually half-mouldy jam. Most of mine was always eaten by a fat rat, for which I often lay in wait, but in vain. This sparse living, which left us always half-fed, brought about a most unpleasant state of affairs. The men often suffered literally from hunger, and this led to pilfering of rations. . . . When it comes to food, the good manners that in Europe are mostly whitewash are soon scratched off. . . . Privations and danger tear away all that has been acquired, and then good form survives only in those in whom it is born.
"The Great Offensive" 
Everybody had that clutching feeling: 'It's coming over!' There was a terrific stupefying crash - the shell had burst in the midst of us.- I picked myself up half-conscious. The machine-gun ammunition in the large shell-hole, set alight by the explosion, was burning an intense pink glow. It illumined the rising fumes of the shell-burst in which there writhed a heap of black bodies and the shadowy forms of the survivors, who were rushing from the scene in all directions. At the same time rose a multitudinous tumult of pain and cries for help. I will make no secret of it that after a moment's blank horror I took to my heels like the rest and ran aimlessly into the night. It was not till I had fallen head over heels into a small shell-hole that I understood what had happened. Only to hear and see no more! Only to get away, far away, and creep into a hole!
Genocide in Armenia
An Excerpt from Lines of Fire:
Women Writers of World War I, edited by Margaret R. Higonnet, 1999.
In January 1915 Turkish troops attacked Russian-held Kars in Armenia. The attack failed after only a few months, and the disappointed Turks began to suspect that Armenians living within Turkish borders had aided the Russians. Shortly after the failed offensive, the Turkish government began to deport and massacre Armenians living within the Turkish Empire.
As part of the deportation, in 1915 Gadarinée Dadourian and her five children were forced from their home in Gurun in eastern Anatolia. (Her husband was in America at the time.) In the following excerpt Dadourian recalls the genocide:
The deportation of Armenians from Gurun happened under the same conditions as everywhere else. The road we took to Der el Zor presented to view an enormous hecatomb. Luckily, my husband was already in America. I went into exile with my five children, three of whom died along the way, the two others at Der el Zor. . . .
Once a week, groups of three to four thousand Armenians, under pretext of transporting them elsewhere, were taken away and exterminated. The river Murad was choked with corpses; an escort of military labourers was called to the spot to free the blocked waters of the river. The children of these martyrs were assembled in an orphanage; there were at least 6,000.
Town criers warned that any Arab who sheltered Armenians in his house would be hung. They were authorized to keep only women, without children, as servants. I was in the last caravan to leave the city; we knew they were leading us to our deaths. After two hours' march, we were halted at the foot of a hill. The Turks led the women in groups higher up. We did not know what was going on there. My turn came too; holding my two children by hand, I climbed the calvary [hill]. Horror! There was a well wide open where the executioners immediately threw the women they were stabbing. I received a sword blow on my head, another on my neck; my eyes were veiled at the moment I was thrown into the well with my children. I was on a pile of cadavers wet with blood. My head wound bled and my face was bloody.
I scarcely had the strength to drag myself toward a cavity in the well, where I lost consciousness. When I regained my senses I was in an Arab house. After the departure of the Turks, Arab women had come to search among the corpses in hope of finding some survivors. That is how they found me and seeing I was alive, they saved me. From then on I lived in this family as a servant.
I was anxious about the fate of my children, and the Arabs told me they had been taken in by other Arabs; I sought them but did not find them. Since orphans were carried to Constantinople, I went there in the hope of finding them.
They must have died, because on the feast day of Bairam, the Turks took the thousands of children of Der el Zor outside the city, where they were burned alive. Only a few children survived by throwing themselves in the Euphrates [River], then gaining the further shore.
- Gadarinée Dadourian
War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things. The decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse.
The person who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself.
~John Stewart Mill
Sam Alexander, 1982-2011
Marine Sam Alexander, 28, and Lieutenant Ollie Augustin, 23, based at Bickleigh Barracks, were killed by an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) on Friday.
The men were both in 42 Commando Royal Marines. Between 400 and 500 people lined the streets of Wootton Bassett yesterday afternoon to pay their respects after the bodies arrived at RAF Lyneham.
The cortege stopped briefly in front of the town's war memorial as family and friends of the two marines laid flowers on the hearses. Cans of beer were also placed on the roof of the hearse carrying Marine Alexander's body.
Marine Alexander was awarded the Military Cross in 2009 after he charged at the Taliban in order to provide cover for an injured comrade.
Sam's grandfather lives in Jersey.
Older men declare war. But it is the youth that must fight and die.
Only the dead have seen the end of war.