Too few realised it at the time. Earl Grey, the British Foreign Secretary, was one of the few who did. "The lights are going out all over Europe", he said, "And we shall not see them lit again in our lifetime".
The “war to end all wars” did not end war at all – but it did finally mean the end of the beautiful, old world of Catholic Christendom that had given to the world everything that it had come to value did the world but wish to know. Instead, this horrid war ushered in the new, grim, ugly, inhuman world of secularism which has given us Communism, Nazism, abortion and euthanasia.
The First World War was, in reality, the culmination of over 200 years of campaigning by the secularist Antichrist to eliminate traditional Christianity from the government of states.
Its partisans did not care how many died in this deathly struggle – indeed, like their master, Satan, they seemed to revel demonically in the destruction of the old world even as this alien spirit devoured its own sons.
A few bright lights sought to end this terrible and useless war: Pope Benedict XV and the Blessed Emperor Charles were but two such.
But all the more did the secular Antichrist snort and rave at them since these two represented the very enemy it wished to destroy!
Even misguided Catholics denounced their own spiritual leader, Pope Benedict XV, who was so zealous for peace. He could foresee what they could not. The enemies of Christendom had settled upon nothing less than a conflagration of the old world to usher in a new, secular world, and they did not care how many were killed in the process.
Mercy, compassion, forebearance, humility, meekness and love. Pah! What did the new men care for these! These were the signs and symbols of the Creed they wished to eliminate in the name of a spurious, perverted superstition that they sought to dignify with the hallowed name of “science”.
It was no “science” but rather the alchemy of Hell, the occult ignorance of the witch, the presdigitation of the charlatan and the theosophy of self-worship – in short, a monstrous, devilish fraud.
It was the advent of what even Sir Winston Churchill himself admitted would be “the abyss of a new dark age made more sinister and perhaps more prolonged by the lights of a perverted science”.
As so often, it was as much the journalists, chattering classes, scribblers and "scribes" who, not having to fight the war themselves, gleefully helped to whip up the intoxicating spirit of war-fever and misguided patriotism that so much marked the time.
Journalists pride themsleves on exposing frauds and using free speech to denounce evils. Some brave and courageous journalists do but the craven majority simply exacerbate the fashionable evils of their time by promoting and exalting them. One need only look at the utterly craven and cowardly way in which so many journalists promoted Communism during the years of Stalin's greatest mass-murdering of his own people. So, too, did many journalists avidly support the First World War.
And this homage to the Enemy of human nature claimed the lives of millions, even of some of the brightest and best.
Here dead we lie because we did not choose
To live and shame the land from which we sprung.
Life, to be sure, is nothing much to lose;
But young men think it is, and we were young.
A E Housman (1859-1936)
Roland Aubrey Leighton (27 March 1895-23 December 1915) was an English poet and soldier, immortalised in Vera Brittain's memoir, Testament of Youth, who was killed aged only 20 years old, not long out of boyhood (his grave says 19).
His parents, Robert Leighton and Marie Connor, were both writers. Leighton was a pupil at Uppingham School, where he became a close friend of Vera Brittain's brother, Edward.
He obtained a commission in 1915 and served with the Worcestershire Regiment in France. He died of wounds on 23 December 1915 having been shot through the stomach while inspecting wire, and is buried in the military cemetery at Louvencourt, near Doullens, France.
Vera Brittain, who had accepted his proposal of marriage four months before his death, was to include him, and quote some of his work, in her writing at the time, and later in Testament of Youth.
Many of Leighton's letters are included in Letters from a Lost Generation, a compilation of her wartime letters that was published after her death. His mother anonymously published a memoir of him called Boy of My Heart which heart-rendingly tells the tragic tale of a mother's loss of her most beloved son.
Readers of Testament of Youth will get a flavour of the horror, heartache and grief that was caused by this most odious and senseless war.
Vera Brittain herself later campaigned during World War II against unrestricted bombing, joining with men like Bishop Bell of Chichester and Richard Stokes, the Catholic Labour MP. They were in touch with the German opposition and men like Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Such was the enthusiasm for bombing that they were not listened to and a huge amount of unnecessary damage was done.
Her daughter, Shirley Williams, now Baroness Williams of Crosby, became a famous Labour politician.
Roland Leighton, himself, however, had quietly converted to Roman Catholicism on the battlefield.
Like many another young soldier in that war, he had seen the Catholic chaplains risking their lives to tend wounded soldiers in no-mans-land, bringing them the Sacraments, Viaticum, Anointing and the last rites. Many a young man awoke in the mud to find a Catholic priest leaning over him, anointing him and asking "Shall I write to your mother?", or similar, before moving on to another wounded boy, leaping from trench to trench, amidst shrapnel, explosions and stray bullets, to bring the crucified Christ to the lips of the shattered and dying.
The Parable of the Old Man and the Young
So Abram rose, and clave the wood, and went,
And took the fire with him, and a knife.
And as they sojourned both of them together,
Isaac the first-born spake and said, My Father,
Behold the preparations, fire and iron,
But where the lamb for this burnt-offering?
Then Abram bound the youth with belts and straps,
And builded parapets and trenches there,
And stretched forth the knife to slay his son.
When lo! an angel called him out of heaven
Saying, lay not thy hand upon the lad,
Neither do anything to him. Behold,
A ram, caught in a thicket by its horns;
Offer the Ram of Pride instead of him.
But the old man would not so, but slew his son,
And half the seed of Europe, one by one.
Wilfred Owen (1893 - 1918)
Raymond Asquith (6 November 1878-15 September 1916) was an English barrister and eldest son and heir of British Prime Minister H. H. Asquith, later Earl of Oxford and Asquith, by his first wife Helen Kelsall Melland (who died 1891).
Raymond Asquith was a Wykehamist, a brilliant scholar of Balliol College, Oxford, and a fellow of All Souls College, Oxford. He was a member of “The Coterie”, one of many Edwardian sets (or fraternities, as the Americans call them) that sprung up at the time, and a prominent young Englishman of the Edwardian period. He died on active service during the First World War in 1916 at the age of 37, having volunteered shortly before.
Asquith was one of the young stars of his generation, a brilliant scholar, a brilliant barrister and rapidly selected as Junior Counsel to the Treasury. He later figured prominently in the Titanic Enquiry as Counsel for the Board of Trade.
From this platform he could undoubtedly have become one of the greatest in the land, with a brilliant political career ahead of him – perhaps Prime Minister, like his father, or Lord Chancellor.
Instead he volunteered to fight as a humble lieutenant on the Western Front with the Grenadier Guards and was killed at Ginchy on the Somme. He is buried at Guillemont by the Somme.
His relatives are well-known: his sister Violet, her elder son Mark and granddaughter Jane who all became Life Peers, as Baroness Asquith of Yarnbury, Lord Bonham-Carter and Baroness Bonham Carter of Yarnbury, respectively.
Raymond's son Julian succeeded his grandfather as 2nd Earl of Oxford and Asquith.
Other relatives include the late director Anthony Asquith (a half-brother), his great-niece, the actress Helena Bonham Carter (a granddaughter of Violet Bonham Carter), his grandson, the 5th Baron Hylton who was elected to the House of Lords as a representative peer, another grandson, the writer, the Hon John Joliffe, who edited a collection of Asquith's letters, and the late Liberal politician Jo Grimond, the Baron Grimond (who married Raymond Asquith's niece Laura, a daughter of Violet).
The writer John Buchan devoted several pages of his autobiography, Memory Hold-the-Door, to remembering Raymond Asquith and their friendship in some detail.
Raymond Asquith was married in 1907 to the former Katherine Horner, younger daughter of Sir John Horner, of Mells Abbey, Somerset, descended from “Little Jack Horner'”of nursery song fame. His wife inherited the estate when her brother Edward Horner (1888-1917) also died in the war. Asquith and his wife had three children.
Raymond Asquith died before his father was raised to the House of Lords in 1925 as Earl of Oxford and Asquith.
His widow, Katherine, famously converted to Roman Catholicism, and befriended Monsignor Ronald Knox, the even more famous Old Etonian convert to the Faith.
Upon Raymond Asquith's grave are inscribed these words from the final chorus of Shakespeare's Henry V:
"Small time but in that small, most greatly lived this star of England"
A poignant epitaph to a man of brilliance, cut down in his prime in a cruel war.
What began, in the minds of the innocent, with this:
Better men seeing the futility of it tried to stop the war but the Moloch of secularism was determined to sacrifice all to its insatiable lust for gore and blood.
At a Calvary near the Ancre
One ever hangs where shelled roads part.
In this war He too lost a limb,
But His disciples hide apart;
And now the Soldiers bear with Him.
Near Golgotha strolls many a priest,
And in their faces there is pride
That they were flesh-marked by the Beast
By whom the gentle Christ's denied.
The scribes on all the people shove
And bawl allegiance to the state,
But they who love the greater love
Lay down their life; they do not hate.
Wilfred Owen (1893 - 1918)