Heroes of First World War



Amidst the slaughter of the First World War, countless people displayed acts of great courage and bravery. Many of these actions were lost in the turmoil of the trenches. These people stand as a representation of the human spirit in the most testing of circumstances

Nurse Edith Cavell. Edith Cavell was working as a nurse in Brussels, Belgium, when the Germans invaded and occupied in 1914. With the help of others, she aided many British servicemen to safety. For helping British servicemen to escape she was executed by the German occupying army. Before her execution, amongst her last recorded words were. 'Patriotism is not enough, I must have no hatred or bitterness to anyone." - Nurse Edith Cavell

Wilfred Owen. Wilfred Owen was decorated with the military cross for bravery in action. However, he is best remembered as one of the greatest war poets. His poems poignantly reflected the paradox between hope and reality of the war.
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of tired, outstripped Five-Nines that dropped behind.
Gas! Gas! Quick, boys! – An ecstasy of fumbling,
- From Dulce et Decorum Est, Wilfred Owen

Wilfred Owen was killed by a bullet to the head, shortly before the armistice in November 1918.

Baron Manfred Von Richtofen. Widely known as the 'Red Baron' he was the top flying ace of the war, with over 80 credited kills. He became a great hero in his native Germany and was well known on the Allied side. Amongst airmen, there was a mutual respect and a certain code of honour was kept to. He died in April 1918, towards the end of the war.

T.E. Lawrence. 'Lawrence of Arabia' T.E.Lawrence was a British officer posted to the Middle East. Against great odds, he raised an Arab revolt against the Turkish army. With a small cache of arms, they harried the Turks; and in one of the most daring attacks of the war, took a small Arab army through the desert to surprise the Turks at Aqaba. Lawrence displayed great love for both Britain and his Arab allies who looked to him as a natural leader.

Woodrow Wilson. Perhaps the most idealistic person of the war. Wilson strived to keep America neutral, as he had a deep dislike for war. When Germany began unrestricted submarine warfare and rumours of a German alliance with Mexico began, Wilson reluctantly took his country into war. Perhaps his biggest contribution was in trying to shape the peace. His 14 points sought to create a peace based on common principles of justice. He was also a proponent of a new association - The League of Nations, which he hoped would prevent future wars.

Siegfried Sassoon. A great war poet and fearless soldier. He was known for his reckless courage in the face of action. But, grew increasingly disenchanted with the horrors of trench warfare. He wrote a letter to the Times, criticising the conduct of the war. Coming from a celebrated poet and military hero, this was quite a shock.

David Lloyd George. In 1916, David Lloyd George took over from Asquith as Prime Minister of Great Britain. There was concerns that Asquith was not up to the task of being a war leader. With great enthusiasm and energy, Lloyd George reorganised British industry and put the country on a path to total war. He also played a pivotal role in persuading the Navy to adopt the convoy system. This convoy system was crucial in protecting Allied shipping against the devastating losses of the German U-Boat campaigns.

Marshall Petain. Petain was the hero of Verdun. In the bitter fighting of 1916, there was a real danger the Germans would break through at the fortress of Verdun. However, Petain rallied the embittered French army in a last ditch defence, which ultimately held out. In 1917, the exhausted French army mutinied, fed up with a series of defeats and difficult conditions. Petain was made commander of the army and succeeded in restoring the morale and overcoming the mutiny.

Ataturk. The Turkish general who held off the allied attack at Gallipoli. If the Allies had broken through, Istanbul could easily have fallen. Turks fought with great spirit, and there existed a mutual respect amongst the competing armies - despite the dreadful scale of the slaughter.

John J. Pershing. Commander in Chief of the American army in France. Though criticised for being slow to release American troops to the war, he later achieved success in the final Allied advance of the war. Like Woodrow Wilson, he was highly critical of the Treaty of Versailles.

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