Not every hero died, of course. (A) picture of Private Samuel Harvey VC “sharing a joke” with King George V, Queen Mary and other dignitaries was taken at a Buckingham Palace garden party in 1919 held for 300 soldiers who had won the Victoria Cross.
But in the air of 1914 there had been (for those with money, at least) a feverish romanticism , fuelled by many elements of Victorian life and culture. Overall it carried an invincible belief in the superiority of all things British; and an innocently misguided vision of war as a great and gallant knightly adventure.
Even by the end of the Great War, magazines and books still carried ludicrous pictures of cavalry charging into the enemy guns. And if war was a noble adventure, then those who died in its cause must be their very nature be noble.
In 1922 in England Today George A.Greenwood wrote: “About 11 per cent of the privates who were mobilised never returned; among the officers the proportion was about 22 per cent; and among the young subalterns the harvest of death was even greater still … They were of the stock of men with high desires that come from fresh brains and who have the energy to apply them, the elements that count for most in the world’s affairs. It is no mere coincidence that our almost intolerable weight of social, industrial and economic problems follows upon the sudden abstraction from and the very partial restoration to the life of its nation of its noblest, bravest and most unselfish youth.”
There was a burning need to find someone to blame, or at least find a reason for the mess the world was still in after the Great War. The post-war years were very difficult, rising prices and unemployment, the 1926 General Strike, all leading towards long-term recession.
- from “The Lost Generation: The Myth and The Reality,” Mike Roden