Does Great Britain need to move on from the Second World War?

Rosie, Year 11, shares her recent WimTalk with us, discussing issues surrounding the way Britain remembers its past to shape its future.

September 2nd, 1945, Tokyo Bay. On the deck of the American battleship USS Missouri, the Japanese Instrument of Surrender document was signed by representatives from Japan, the United States, China, the United Kingdom, the USSR, Australia, Canada, France, the Netherlands, and New Zealand. World War Two was officially over. This ceremony aboard USS Missouri lasted 23 minutes, and yet the impact of what it represented rings on to today, almost 75 years later.

Now, in 2020, Great Britain has not moved on the Second World War – far from it. Everywhere in Britain, wartime memorials and museums can be found, remembering the half a million soldiers and civilians who lost their lives. Most British people have relative who fought in or experienced the war, and there are few who would not recognise the phrase ‘We shall fight on the beaches’ from Churchill’s most famous speech. And this prominent remembrance is not just confined to the older generations: It is an integral part of every child’s education too. Hundreds of books, TV programmes, podcasts and films have documented the war with great success – even recently. The modern economy, too, remembers the war, with Britain making the final war loan payment to the United States only 14 years ago in 2006. Overall, the memory of the Allied victory in the Second World War – “our Finest Hour” – inspires the national sense of pride in our military history that has become a rather defining British characteristic.

But the question is: why does Great Britain cling on to the Second World War more than any other nation involved? And is this fixation justified, or is it time to move on?

One perspective is that the British viewpoint of the Second World War is bound to be different because of geography. The triumph of physically small island nation prevailing in war is something we can celebrate and take pride in. For other nations involved – larger landlocked countries with shifting borders – this is less easy. For example, Germans today are less inclined to look back, not only because of the radical changes in society since the Third Reich or lack of a victory to celebrate, but also because modern Germany is physically different to the earlier Germany of the Kaisers, Weimar, Hitler and the divided states of the Cold War. Instead, Germany today looks forward, not backwards, which some would argue has allowed it to become the economic giant on the world stage that it now is.

And that’s another thing – how much has Britain changed since the Second World War? Of course, it has modernised along with the rest of the world: politically, economically, and physically, but so many of the same institutions remain as were present in 1939. Our democratic government, our monarchy, our military and traditions have survived the test of worldwide conflict twice in one century, the collapse of the British Empire and the Cold War in a way that those of France, Spain and Italy have not.

Above: Photo from wikimedia commons

The Second World War was a clear clash of good vs bad – peace vs aggression. Britain was not directly attacked by Hitler but stepped up to honour a promise to defend Poland against invasion for the greater good. Remembering the Second World War makes Britain proud of these national values, as had Chamberlain not roused from his policy of appeasement and committed Britain to the sacrifice of money, empire and life, had Churchill not fortified the nation’s most important alliance with Roosevelt, the world would certainly be a very different place today. And so, if a nation’s psyche comes from the values and institutions it possesses that have stood up throughout history, is it really any wonder Brits take pride in looking back?

On the other hand, perhaps after so many years it’s time to recognise that we are not, in fact, the same Britain that we were in 1945. In 1944, British economist John Maynard Keynes spoke at the famous Bretton Woods conference. He said that the Allies had proven they could fight together, and now it was time to show they could also live together. In achieving this, a genuine ‘brotherhood of man’ would be within reach. At this conference, the IMF and World Bank were created, soon followed by the UN, to promote peace and prevent the kind of economic shocks that led to war in the first place. But at the same time, these organisations were a convenient way for the main Allied powers to solidify their power and privileges. Since then, a European has always headed the IMF, and an American the World Bank. The UN Security Council is dominated by the five permanent members, whose privileged position, some say, is nothing but a throwback to the power distribution on the world stage of 1945. By clinging on to the war, are we really clinging on to the idea that Britain is still a leading power, and modern economic giants such as Germany and Japan do not deserve to disrupt the power structure of 1945? We pour so much money into Britain’s defence budget to maintain this powerful status – into remembered threats and sometimes archaic strategies: submarine warfare, aerial dogfighters and manned bombers. The Second World War was certainly a catalyst for change across the globe. Perhaps now, Britain’s inability to let go of these old power ideals and designated roles of nations prevents us from achieving the ‘brotherhood of man’ that, in 1944, Keynes dared to dream of.

We are told that the value of history is to ‘learn a lesson’ to prevent us from repeating the same mistakes again. But there is an argument to say that this concept is a consistent failure. So many conflicts around the world seem to be caused by too much remembering: refreshing tribal feuds, religious division, border conflicts, expulsions and humiliations. Doesn’t remembering cause Sunni to fight Shia or Hindu to fight Muslim? Is it memory that maintains dispute in the Balkans, the Levant, Mesopotamia? Perhaps the emotion sparked by remembering the details of our past is better left in history when it has the capability to spark aggression, conspiracy theories and irrational anger. Today’s politics of identity seem provocative enough without being fuelled by history, so perhaps we should heed Jorge Luis Borges who wrote: ‘The only vengeance and the only forgiveness is in forgetting’. This advice has been proven to work over time – Nelson Mandela’s philosophy in 1990s South Africa was to focus on ‘truth and reconciliation’ and draw a line under his country’s recent history – closure. Can Britain not find closure on the 20th century?

What I can conclude is that there are two perspectives to take on this statement: there are some who hold onto our history as a lesson for the future, as a reminder of the importance of peace and action for the greater good, who will never be able to forget the Second World War because of the core British values that it represents. And then, there are those who think it is time to let go of the past, and adapt our nation’s values to suit our current position in the quickly-changing world that we live in. And so, the only question I have left to ask is: which are you?

Invention through desperation – military medical advancements

Military

Jessica, Year 13, explores military medical advancements in recent conflicts, discussing their impact and whether the nature of war acts as an inspiration for innovation.

In 2001, the conflict in Afghanistan began, continuing until a majority of British troops withdrew in the final months of 2014. During these years, 6,386 British personnel were injured, with 28 fatalities, leaving the survival rate at 99.6%.

This was unheard of in previous wars and a major success story for military medicine. However, the injuries and trauma to the soldiers during this period of time increasingly involved haemorrhaging and amputations due to gunshot wounds and IEDs (also known as improvised explosive devices – a type of unconventional crude homemade bomb). These IEDs cause extensive blood loss which has been attributed to 50% of combat deaths since World War Two. In order for these soldiers to survive, a change had to be made in the form of military medicine to preserve life and limb. There are three major advancements in military trauma medicine which all arose from the need to problem-solve solutions to the new injuries personnel and the medics were now witnessing.

The first is haemostatic dressings. During the period of the Afghanistan conflict, two new dressings were developed: XSTAT and QuickClot powder which contain components such as fibrinogen and thrombin catalysing the natural coagulation response. XSTAT uses 92 medical sponges in a pocket-sized injector to pack an open wound and halt bleeding within fifteen seconds. XSTAT increases the chance of survival and holds pressure until the patient can reach a medical centre. They also contain a molecule which is visible on an X-ray to ensure all sponges are removed later to prevent infection.

Secondly, there was a development in the traditional tourniquet. A tourniquet is a constricting or compressing device used to control venous and arterial blood flow to a portion of an extremity for a period of time. This is possible because it creates pressure equal to or higher than the patient’s systolic blood pressure. The single hand tie tourniquet is a development from the original tourniquet used by army medics which had to be applied by the medic and thus were only carried by them. Without the patient being able to apply their own tourniquet, crucial time and blood was lost whilst the medic reached the injured individual, reducing their chance of survival as well as increasing the complexity of their treatment and injuries. This is when the Clinical Application Tourniquet (CAT) was developed and introduced into the US Army in 2005. It was the first single-hand tie tourniquet, allowing the soldiers to treat their own injuries immediately until the medic could attend and provide more advanced care. The tourniquet distributes pressure over a greater area which is advantageous because it reduces the underlying tissue and nerve damage, preventing it from becoming ischemic, a deficient supply of blood, whilst remaining effective. This decrease in time before a tourniquet is used has decreased the mortality rate due to haemorrhaging by 85%.

A third category of advancements is in the use of blood and the way it is transported. Blood and blood products, such as platelets, are crucial in the treatment of haemorrhaging and amputations. However, in order for it to be viable for transfusion, it must be maintained in a cool, constant environment, far from the natural one in Afghanistan. This was previously a significant disadvantage and contributed to the low survival rates for haemorrhaging but improved with the development of the blood container. The Golden-Hour mobile blood container stores up to four units of blood and platelets at[1]the required temperature of six and two degrees Celsius respectively, for 72 hours without electricity, batteries or ice to aid emergency medics. Crucially, this enabled blood to be brought forward to the battlefield rather than stored at the field hospital.

The environment of the military and the nature of its role means that trauma medicine needs to evolve to deal with the style of injuries it is experiencing: invention through desperation. However, it is important that the care not only reflects the immediate treatment of the patient but also considers their long-term care to ensure they can achieve a high quality of life post-conflict.

(SOS) Saving Our Sanity in schools…One email at a time!

wimbledon logo

Emma Gleadhill is an ATL Rep and a Teacher of English at Wimbledon High School. She is also a Wellbeing in Schools Consultant, Speaker and Trainer.

In my work as a speaker and trainer at schools across the UK, email is frequently discussed as a source of workload pressure and stress. As an ATL rep, the damage ill-conceived emails can do to relationships on the ground in school is clear.

All teachers, form teachers, subject leaders and heads of year lose sleep over email bombs from disgruntled parents sent at the Chardonnay-fuelled witching hour. (And I should know, as a parent myself, I have been guilty of late-night email venting!). Teachers lose precious time and focus repeatedly checking bulging in-boxes. Sometimes this is relief from marking pedestrian assignments, or escaping the toll on the invention of report writing. For others constant checks arise from a Canute-style anxiety to feel ‘on top’ of the incoming tide of emails.

Various reports have indicated that the average office worker receives in excess of 120 emails daily. Email takes up 23% of the average working day. Numerous companies are now checking the impact of email on productivity. Of course we are teachers, not office workers. Many of us will be spending 80% of our working day at the chalk face. So we really have to watch when, where and how much email impinges. Few of us were hired for our ability to manage our inboxes. It is rare that staffrooms engage in quality dialogue about good practice where the email culture is concerned.

We may feel like we are multitasking with every smartphone check, but each time we switch tasks, there is a cognitive drag which hampers the depth, quality and speed of our thinking. More and more teachers have their work email on their mobiles, blurring the boundaries between work and home, and even task and task even further.

Workload rises – but we need to be sure that lack of focus is not hampering our effectiveness. We need to take back control of the technology and build a mindful and compassionate approach to screen-use.

Key ideas:

Self-management

  1. Schedule in set points on your timetabled day to check email. Stick to those. Don’t check email at any other time. This will help you really focus on sorting the relevance and action points you genuinely have to attend to.
  2. Set a time scale when you will reasonably participate in work emails (e.g. not after 6.00pm, not before 8am)
  3. Create folders to sort your emails. Have an archive for non-urgent information pieces you can go back to for professional development.
  4. Stop contributing to a culture of email presentee-ism. Consider the unconscious messages you are sending by responding to emails 24-7. Especially if you are in a leadership position… Be disciplined. Write the draft out of hours if you absolutely must. Delay sending messages to reasonable working hours.
  5. Have some well-worded holding responses or auto-responses to help manage expectations about turnaround – especially if requiring investigation.
  6. Set reminders to yourself, flag messages so that you don’t miss important deadlines.
  7. Be clear what your message is about. In the header and the first line. Cut waffle. I like the US Military ‘BLUF’ model: ‘Bottom Line Up Front’ protocol.
  8. If you are in a senior position never invite people to meet with you without briefly saying why. It spreads paranoia like wildfire.
  9. Consider are you really sending an email to your neighbour? Is it more effective to discuss…dare we say it…face to face?
  10. Don’t commit the cardinal sin of replying to all 250 of your colleagues – unless modelling wit AND professionalism (No pressure…)!

School culture

  1. Consult, agree and publicise clear protocols regarding email expectations e.g. no overnight responses.
  2. Ensure that clear procedures and lines of support are available for when complaints are made by parents online.
  3. Emphasise the importance of collaboration. Schools tend to run on principles of harmonisation: every risk assessed. But learning involves frustration and anxiety at times, so conflict is highly likely to occur.
  4. Consider developing a clear, one page communication policy setting out shared standards that will help build a listening culture for all stakeholders: pupils, parents, teachers, governors.

Twitter: @DHPastoral_WHS