Youthful survivors of the Great War ‘adventure’ were forced to do it all again just 21 years later

A copy of a 1939 Chorley Guardian photo showing veterans of World War One, once again volunteering to serve during World War Two
A copy of a 1939 Chorley Guardian photo showing veterans of World War One, once again volunteering to serve during World War Two
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Historian Stuart Clewlow reflects on what lessons should have been learnt from the devastation of the Great War, as this month marks the 75th anniversary of Britain once again declaring war on Germany, and what became the Second World War.

At the moment there are world war one commemorative TV programmes, dramas, magazines and newspaper articles.

Such is the importance that society has placed upon this period of history, the general feeling is to not allow the centenary period to pass by unnoticed or without addressing the issues and lessons the conflict should have taught us.

So even in the 21st century we generalise that the Great War would have been the war to end all wars. A sad thought however is that only 21 years after Germany signed the Armistice in 1918, the world broke out in war again.

This month marks the 75th anniversary of Britain declaring war on Germany on September 3, 1939, and what became World War Two.

A nation’s youth who went out on the great adventure of a war that would be over by Christmas 1914, were once again answering a call to the colours and were donning khaki, but this time as middle aged and old men.

Teenagers and young men who will be mentioned in the Guardian over the coming months as having fought gallantly in the trenches or been wounded, are commemorated for a second chapter of their lives which saw them face great risks once more.

Although as a community our region didn’t suffer the same losses as during World War One, the Second World War was more of a total war.

By this I mean civilians were often in as much danger as those in the armed forces.

Many local war memorials which are engraved with the rolls of honour from two world wars, contain fathers lost during 1914-18 and their sons, lost during 1939-45.

Research also shows that some men on the Second World War rolls of honour had already served and survived the First World War.

So as we contemplate the lessons of World War One and consider the legacy it left on our society, it is necessary to think that the centenary of the start of World War Two will be in just 21 years. Historians have sought to answer our questions about World War One but it is now that questions should be asked about World War Two, while those who were witnesses to the events are able to provide us with the answers directly.