Watching Downton Abbey I wished my father was by my side. He was born in 1898 and fought on the Western Front in 1917/18. Sadly though I don't think he would have survived the experience. I can see him getting seriously angry not just at the blatant costume inaccuracies - officers wearing full mess kit during war time - when it was customary for them to wear khaki -even at he smartest dinners, or a First World War general without a moustache but at the 'anti war' bias of the programme - so the cooks nephew had been shot for cowardice (highly unlikely given that under a hundred men were shot for cowardice throughout the whole war) - the valet had severe shell shock and was a drivelling wreck and the Chauffeur was going to be a conscientious objector and had also had the amazingly bad luck to have had a nephew killed in the Easter Rising in Dublin, Oh and the ex footman returned after deliberately getting a finger shot off by a German sniper (now I know German snipers where good but even they were not that good) -what a weird house hold! Ok it all makes good Television but actually - contrary to modern opinion - not all soldiers who served came back gibbering wrecks - and yes - in isolation the mud - the filth - the death - was awful - but - as any one will tell you who has been a soldier - it is when the conditions are worst that the humour comes out.
Stupid people - of which there are alas many - say the War must have been terrible because men who served never talked about it. What rubbish - there is absolutely no point in 'talking about' something to people who know nothing about what one is talking about. So I very much doubt that a banker comes home at night and tells his wife about all his deals - it would just be too exhausting trying to explain something to someone totally ignorant. My father never talked about the First War either but only because I never asked him - he did tell me one story though - to illustrate a point he was making. When he joined his battalion he wound his way through the trenches till he found his company dugout. He parted the curtain and there were three officers round a table. 'Hello' he said 'I was told to report here, I am Tony Fulford.' One of the officers looked up; 'Do you play bridge?' 'Eh- No ' responded my father -'Well you had better bloody well learn as we need a fourth.'
Why did he tell me this story - to hammer home his idea that more games/skills you had the more you would get out of life,or - if a thigs worth doing its worth doing badly.