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The Global War: Part I & II

There is a notable difference in my understanding of the effects of World War I & II on British culture. I knew that the impact was great. I knew that technology drastically changed throughout the course of the First World War, and that RAF pilots were practically superheroes during the Second World War. I knew that thousands of women were employed at Bletchley Park and never received recognition for their devotion to their country. I’ve picked up on different bits of information regarding Great Britain and the wars slowly through the years, and then quickly while taking WWII History and Memory, the class that prepared me for this trip. Films like Carve Her Name With Pride and accounts from terrified Londoners during the Luftwaffe raids painted what I thought was a clear picture of British responses to war. I didn’t really understand, though. Not until I saw the monuments firsthand, not until I heard our tour guides describe the loss of life with emotion in their voices. I’ve done plenty of introspective thinking about the World Wars, but through the wrong lens: an American one. Our history clearly teaches World War I and II as separate entities. Linked, entwined, but different. Different technology, economy, and experiences make them easy to teach in separate units. In the United Kingdom, it’s impossible to talk about either war without describing the other just as much. Not only are they linked, they’re inseparable. Without going too deep into a history lesson, Great Britain’s status as a European nation and its proximity to Germany and France is the cause for this disparity with American history. Even if I had been told o the differences in connections, I wouldn’t have gotten the full picture without seeing multiple British World War I monuments with updates inscribed after World War II. In Hyde Corner, statues and monuments honor the dead from both wars in the same space. One tour guide described this phenomenon by saying that the Brits had “The Global War: Part I and II.” I’m deeply fascinated by this connection, and I’ll leave Europe with not only trinkets for my family, but a possible Honors History thesis topic.