Robert Graves: Even its opponents don’t survive war
From Good-Bye to All That (1929)
My mother used to tell us stories of inventors and doctors who gave their lives to the service of humanity…She kept off the subject of war as much as possible; always finding it difficult to explain how it was God permitted wars. The Boer War clouded my early childhood…
One of my last recollections at Charterhouse is a school debate on the motion ‘that this house is in favour of compulsory military service.’ The Empire-Service League, with Earl Roberts of Kandahar, V.C., as its President, sent down a propagandist in support. Only six votes out of one hundred and nineteen were noes. I was the principle opposition speaker against the motion, having recently resigned from the Officers’ Training Corps in revolt against the theory of implicit obedience to orders. And during a fortnight spent the previous summer at the O.T.C. camp near Tidworth on Salisbury Plain, I had been frightened by a special display of the latest military fortifications: barbed-wire entanglements, machine-guns, and field artillery in action. General, later Field-Marshall, Sir William Robertson, who had a son at the school, visited the camp and impressed upon us that war with Germany must inevitably break out within two or three years, and that we must be prepared to take our part in it as leaders of the new forces which would assuredly be called into being. Of the six noes, Nevill Barbour and I are, I believe, the only ones who survived the war.