Virtually anyone who was alive in the interwar period was marked in some way by the ‘Great War’ of 1914–18. Those who were too young to have been in it, or even remember it, had relatives who had served. One heard of them, one also heard the survivors’ tales, not always sad or horrific. For many, it was clearly their greatest experience of life. There were also the many limbless ex-servicemen to be seen. Some 745,000 men from Britain had been killed — that is, 9 per cent of all men aged 20 to 45 (many victims were younger than 20). About 1.7 million were wounded and 1.2 million of them received disablement pensions, though some of these did find employment. The war was remembered too in countess films — The Great Parade and All Quiet on the Western Front — books, plays and in the haunting pictures of Paul Nash, Stanley Spencer and Percy Wyndham Lewis. Once a year there was also ‘the Great Silence’ which engulfed the land at 11 a.m. on 11 November. This remembrance ceremony for the war dead brought the whole country to a halt and was at once both impressive and frightening. Whether it was intentional or not, it became a medium of inspiring patriotism, reinforcing subservience and enforcing control.
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