I was surprised at the beginning of the film, They Shall Not Grow Old, because of all the young people who enlisted in the war as if it were a game. Children of my age or a little older were signing up to their deaths as if it were the soccer team. This fearsome thought got me thinking about what would occur if there was a war in this century, how hesitant me and the people I know would be in joining the bloodshed. Throughout the film there were the voices of veteran soldiers explaining their thoughts and feelings about what was happening and every last of them expressed excitement and a sense of wonder which made me feel very uneasy.
I was particularly disgusted in the way they pressured kids to lie about their age and bully them into enrolling in the military. Soldiers usually had to be 19 years of age to be able to do this but everyone pretended to know none the better when it came to it. I remember one story that one of the veterans told. The young veteran had gone to enlist in WW1 but he was only 15 as he told the officer and to his and my surprise he was told to go then come back and say he was 19. I’ve always pictured soldiers as these robotic killing machines so it is hard for me to imagine them as adolescents with real life families strapped with guns.
As the movie went on, the illusion that it was just a big game continued to fade. No man’s land was shown to be plagued by the deaths of both British troops and the German ones. It was haunting for me to see the surface of how much violence there was, the artillery barrage killing countless people in mere seconds or the gut-wrenching images of soldiers getting their heads blown off by the seemingly endless rain of machine gun bullets. There were stories told of the men hiding in holes in the ground to avoid getting killed but their teammates were not as lucky as they were bleeding to their death right next to brave soldiers.
I am glad that I watched these men telling their perspectives in the war because I have learned to understand the emotions that were felt during the harrowing days fighting.