Millions of men died in the First World War, or the Great War as it was originally known, in a sickening and grotesque spectacle of mass carnage that is perhaps the closest we have ever come to bringing hell to earth.

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Piles of corpses, half-buried in mud and entangled in barbed wire, young bodies blown to pieces, limbs scattered in seas of blood as once again the order came to go “over the top” and advance into near-certain death in the face of shells, poison gas and machine guns.

“In the year 1916, in two battles (Verdun and the Somme) casualties of over 1,700,000 were suffered by both sides… On all fronts in the whole war almost 13,000,000 men in the various armed forces died from wounds and disease”. [1]

For years the butchery went on, while all that was gained by this odious sacrifice of humanity was a few hundred yards of territory, soon to be relinquished in the other side’s counter-attack.

Visions of the sheer horror of the trenches have haunted my imagination since I was a boy and have shaped the way I see the world.

Over the years, I have met many others of my generation who felt exactly the same way and I sometimes ask myself why this should be.

The Second World War was a much closer event and I heard first-hand accounts of the German bombing raids on England from my parents, but the First World War took place half a century before I was born. Why did it move me so much?