Given the anniversary of the Battle of the Somme, I've been listening to some of the celebratory stuff on the radio and it struck me as strange how popular myth evolve.
Many are saying, quite incorrectly, that it was the bloodiest battle in human history. That's simply not true. Operation Barbarossa, the Brusilov Offensive and the Dnieper Offensive far outstrip the Somme for total casualties. In terms of loss of life in a single day, it is one of the bloodiest episodes of warfare.
Another popular myth is that the soldiers who died in WWI died for us. It was Great Britain that declared war on Germany, not the other way round - and all because the Germans wouldn't guarantee the neutrality of Belgium. The background to the war was the major European powers vying for supremacy as world powers. WWII was about empire building and who could be top dog. It was war for political power, not to save anyone in Great Britain.
The soldiers that went over the top thought they were walking into shattered German defences from the weeks of continuous bombardment, when they actually walked into a hail of bullets and almost certain death - but they weren't to know that.