Remembering the True Cost of War

Nov 13, 2015

- By Bill Bonner

Bill Bonner
Paris, France

Again, yesterday, Mr Market looked up and down and decided to stay more or less where he was.

It was Armistice Day, a holiday here in France. On 11 November at 11am, the guns fell silent and la grande saignee (the great bleeding) was over.

We were busy in the city, but Elizabeth attended the remembrances in Normandy:

    The names of more than 1.3 million Frenchmen who perished in the Grande Guerre are written on monuments throughout the villages and cities of France. The village of Courtomer has its own monument, a stone column with the flame of victory lying sideways - youth struck down its prime, perhaps.

    The president of the veteran's association shook his head gloomily as we walked to the vin d'honneur afterwards. It was hard to motivate the veterans these days. 'Those of World War I have a good excuse', the mayor gently noted. 'They would be over a hundred years old today.'

    The commemoration started with mass in the church. The veterans gathered behind the altar, flags raised or lowered in rhythm with the liturgy. The priest led the way out of church, and then the veterans and a handful of supporters processed to the Monument des Morts.

    The traditional gerbe of flowers was laid at the foot of the Monument by the mayors of Courtomer and the nearby canton of Ferrieres. Our own mayor of Courtomer gave a short speech evoking the battles of World War I. A little over a hundred years ago in 1915, the second battle of Ypres left 100,000 casualties, many from clouds of poisonous chlorine gas released by the German army.

Call to Arms

Elizabeth's grandfather was Canadian. When the war began, the call went out all over the British colonies for young men to help fight the Huns. In a few weeks, young Private Owen, fresh from moose hunting in the backwoods of Nova Scotia, was fighting for his life at Ypres.

He survived and later flew a biplane armed with a machine gun, synchronized so it did not shoot off the propeller. This synchronization device was the latest in military technology, to be protected at all costs.

  Real Estate: The (In)Complete Guide  
(Claim You Free Copy Instantly)
  Vivek Kaul's Special Guide Are you thinking about buying a house?

Do you have a property you are looking to sell?

Is it a good time to buy Real Estate as an investment?

Is it the right time for the "Tata Nanos" of Real Estate to emerge?

What can Modi do to revive the sector?

If any of these questions are on your mind, we have some great news for you!

Introducing our Latest Special Guide... The (In)Complete Guide To Real Estate.

Authored by Vivek Kaul, (A noted columnist and writer whose writings on the economy and money have appeared in several big publications like The Times of India, The Hindu, and Forbes India), this Special guide promises to give you rare insights into this relatively under-researched sector.

A sector that almost every Indian wants to invest in... or is at least affected by.

Right Now... You can Instantly Claim an Absolutely Free Copy of this guide!


So, when he was shot down behind German lines, the pilot set a match to the gas tank, so the plane would burn up before it could be studied by the Germans. This act of duty had a terrifying result.

The Germans pointed out that the captured plane was their property, not his, and that destroying it was sabotage, for which he could be shot on the spot. Instead, he spent the next two years in a prisoner of war camp.

Ypres was the first battle where toxic gas was widely used. Private W Hay, arriving at Ypres on 22 April 1915, described what he saw:

    We knew there was something was wrong. We started to march towards Ypres but we couldn't get past on the road with refugees coming down the road. We went along the railway line to Ypres and there were people, civilians and soldiers, lying along the roadside in a terrible state. We heard them say it was gas. We didn't know what the Hell gas was. When we got to Ypres we found a lot of Canadians lying there dead from gas the day before, poor devils, and it was quite a horrible sight for us young men. I was only twenty so it was quite traumatic and I've never forgotten nor ever will forget it.
No Man's Land

The Canadians were particularly hard hit in WWI. They didn't know what they were getting into. But they didn't back down or run away. One account of an attack across 'no man's land' by a company of Newfoundlanders was particularly moving.

It said they advanced into a squall of bullets "as if it were a nor'easter." They "tucked their chins down and kept moving ahead" until they were all dead.

And what was the point? Millions of people killed. Property destroyed. Time wasted. And for nothing that anyone could put his finger on. The First World War was such a misbegotten disaster that anyone who had anything to do with it should be ashamed of himself.

Today, the WWI soldiers are gone. The WWII soldiers are dropping like the Canadians at Ypres. The handful of old soldiers who came together in Normandy were mostly veterans of the Algerian War, another woebegone conflict.

Today, historians still debate the reasons for WWI. Americans stop to say 'thank you for your service' to military men, generously not asking what purpose it served. And at 11am on the eleventh day of the eleventh month of the year, in St John's, Newfoundland, surely some old woman's heart goes cold, remembering the cost of it.

Bill Bonner is the President & Founder of Agora Inc, an international publisher of financial and special interest books and newsletters.

Disclaimer: The views mentioned above are of the author only. Data and charts, if used, in the article have been sourced from available information and have not been authenticated by any statutory authority. The author and Equitymaster do not claim it to be accurate nor accept any responsibility for the same. The views constitute only the opinions and do not constitute any guidelines or recommendation on any course of action to be followed by the reader. Please read the detailed Terms of Use of the web site.

Recent Articles

When This Happens, Buy May 18, 2018
The yield on the 10-year US Treasury Note just hit a seven year high. Why should you care? Bill tells you exactly why.
Trade War Casualties Pile up Fast May 17, 2018
The EU's pride is the latest casualty of Donald Trump's trade war. But not its only recent victim. Delve deeper with Nick Hubble and discover who's next.
Has the Indian Home Buyer Become Smarter? May 17, 2018
Home loans continue to grow, despite falling sales. What explains this phenomenon?
Is Capitalism a Killer? May 17, 2018
You say capitalism never killed anyone... But who do you think makes all the guns and bombs? Bill analyses 'Capitalism' in today's insightful essay.

Equitymaster requests your view! Post a comment on "Remembering the True Cost of War". Click here!