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Monday, August 4, 2014

it is 100 years since World War I ~ the battles of South India...

Pro-Russian rebels claim to have shot down a Ukrainian spy drone just a few miles from the site of the MH17 disaster.  Reports speak of footage released on Youtube by the self-proclaimed Donetsk Peoples' Republic – showing  a military craft lying in a field near the rebel-dominated city of Donetsk in eastern Ukraine.  Not all lands are peaceful – there is conflict in Ukraine; bloody wars in Syria, Iraq and Gaza – people get killed, and regions suffer….

The role of war in causing tumult in the lives of people needs no elaborate description – wars are bad; blood and gore of violent conflicts;  death, mutilations and injuries; curfews, scarcities and rations; cruel torture of captured, sexual assaults and more ………. War throws up lot of turmoil.  Those regions which witnessed actual conflicts would know it much better than those who only read the history.  South India, and more specifically, Tamil Nadu, fortunately has not witnessed wars for centuries.  More of that towards the end of the post…  but the news on War as reported in Daily Mail and many other Western media is that – exactly 100 years ago tomorrow, Britain stumbled into a war that  was to change the face not just of UK but of the whole of Europe, and perhaps the rest of the World  forever. It was an era of upheaval, revolution, bloodshed and conflict unimaginable to the Britons who cheered when it was decided to fight the Kaiser on August 4, 1914. It is no exaggeration to say that the effects of the Great War are still being felt.

World War I (WW1)  the global War centered in  Europe - began on 28th July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918. Millions were killed in that deadliest conflicts in history, paving the way for major political changes, including revolutions in many of the nations involved. The war drew in all the world's economic great powers which were assembled in two opposing alliances: the Allies (based on the Triple Entente of the United Kingdom, France and the Russian Empire) and the Central Powers of Germany and Austria-Hungary. These alliances were reorganised and expanded as more nations entered the war: Italy, Japan and the United States joined the Allies, and the Ottoman Empire and Bulgaria the Central Powers.

Although a resurgence of  imperialism was an underlying cause, the immediate trigger for war was the 28th  June 1914 assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria, heir to the throne of Austria-Hungary, by Yugoslav nationalist Gavrilo Princip in Sarajevo. This set off a diplomatic crisis and international alliances formed over the previous decades were invoked. Within weeks, the major powers were at war and the conflict soon spread around the world. On 28th  July, the Austro-Hungarians fired the first shots in preparation for the invasion of Serbia. After years of fighting, the war approached a resolution after the Russian government collapsed in March 1917, and a subsequent revolution in November brought the Russians to terms with the Central Powers. In Nov 1918, the Austro-Hungarian empire agreed to an armistice, ending the war in victory for the Allies. By the end of the war, four major imperial powers—the German, Russian, Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman empires—ceased to exist.

Archduke Franz Ferdinand’s death, at the hands of the Black Hand, a Serbian nationalist secret society, set in train a mindlessly mechanical series of events that culminated in the world's first global war ~ and then there was the remarkable sequence of events that led inexorably to the 'Great War' - a name that had been touted even before the coming of the conflict.  Remember that India was under colonial rule and naturally got sucked into the conflict.  Around a million of Indian troops had to travel overseas to alien lands fight alongside Britons and thousands lost their lives.   Besides fighting against Germany,  Indian divisions were also sent to Egypt, Gallipoli and esopotamia against the Ottoman Empire. The Indian army at this time was drawn mainly from the middle peasantry, recruited from the north and north-west of India partly on account of the "martial races" theory of the British which suggested that some races or castes were inherently more warlike than others.

The Great War threw history off its supposed course of progress and enlightenment. It recalibrated the world. It destroyed empires, undermined the power of those who survived, fomented revolutions, broke class systems and social orders, and created a new superpower in the shape of America. There are remnant dark shadows of the War that happened 100 years ago…  Britain got away lightly …. Getting back to Wars in South India – the First Carnatic War (1746-1748)  was triggered by War of the Austrian Succession;  in  this conflict the British and French East India Companies vied with each other on land for control of their respective trading posts at Madras, Pondicherry, and Cuddalore, while naval forces of France and Britain engaged each other off the coast.  The Battle of Wandiwash was a decisive battle in India during the Seven Years' War. The Count de Lally's army, burdened by a lack of naval support and funds, attempted to regain the fort at Vandavasi; was attacked by Sir Eyre Coote's forces and decisively defeated. The French general  in Jan 1761.  Wandiwash is the Anglicised pronunciation of Vandavasi. The Third Carnatic War fought between the French and the British. After making substantial gains in Bengal and Hyderabad, the British, after collecting huge amount of revenue, were fully equipped to face the French in Wandiwash. Battle of Wandiwash involved capture of Chingleput, Thiruvannamalai, Tindivanam … and was one of the land battles between two European powers occurring thousands of miles away from Europe.  

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

3rd Aug 2014.

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