Welcome to re-run time. Some of my favorite posts, mostly older and travel related, while I myself am on the road. When I was a pre-teen I was for a while very interested in war stories. Which would explain why in both 2009 and 2014 I visited the Ypres area in Belgium. This post is from 2014.
In a couple of locations we visited this past summer we had the opportunity to see recreations of trench life (and the tunnel systems that were dug to support the trenches in many areas. Trenches weren’t just straight lines, they zigzagged and could be of different depths and have dugout or tunnel systems attached. German trenches were slightly different form French or British ones. But the purpose was the same, to provide relative protection for soldiers trying to hold territory, and a staging area for the next assault. Hundreds, maybe thousands of kilometres of trenches and tunnels were dug. Occasionally a forgotten tunnel still resurfaces, collapsing in a farmer’s field. For example Yorkshire Trench and its accompanying tunnel system was rediscovered near Ypres in 1992, 74 years after the end of the First World War.
At the Memorial Museum Passchendaele 1917 we were able to observe the different types of trench construction, recreated on the grounds for the tourists. It is very different to experience that on a pleasant summer afternoon – it didn’t really resemble the old black and white films from a century ago, or the scenes from Paul Gross’ film Passchendaele.
Violence as a method of resolving conflict has never appealed to me. Maybe that is because I have never been all that physically strong and would expect to be on the losing end of any violent confrontation; more likely though it is because violence doesn’t solve anything. One nation may be bigger and stronger than another, but short of total genocide I am not convinced that winning a war does more than just set the stage for the next conflict. There are far too many examples of nations who have fought multiple times over the centuries – obviously the first time didn’t resolve the issue.
Standing in the trenches of Passchendaele I thought about the nature of conflict between nations and wondered whether we have learned anything in the last century. I suspect we haven’t.