Prendiville:tale of an Irish soldier(Part 4)

Prendiville:tale of an Irish soldier(Part 4)

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  • now suffering economically. As the war dragged on all participants started to face the challenges this placed on their resources. Britain, France and their allies were able to partly address this through financial support from the US. When the war ended the Austro Hungarian Empire fell apart, the two kingdoms separated and the different ethnic groups sought to establish new independent nations. Karl I and his family were forced into exile from Austria firstly in Switzerland, from where the House of Hapsburg had originated in the 11th century. No Hapsburg family member was allowed to even enter Austria unless they renounced all their rights to rule. Charles turned his attention to the Hungarian throne but two failed attempts marked the end of 645 years of Hapsburg rule. Charles then fled, under British protection, to the Portuguese island of Maderia where he died in 1922. Regarded at the time as a war hero by some Austrians, Nazi propaganda portrayed Charles as a traitor, although others, such as the writer Anatole France have tried to rebuild Charles' reputation: "Emperor Karl is the only decent man to come out of the war in a leadership position, no one listened to him. He sincerely wanted peace, and therefore was despised by the whole world. It was a wonderful chance that was lost."  One of the nationalist movements within the Austro Hungarian Empire was of course Serbia, technically an independent Kingdom, but largely subject to Austrian control and interference.  Austro Hungary and German declared war on Serbia which initially was able to defend itself but was invaded in 1915. The war resulted in the death of more than a quarter of the Serbian population and almost 60% of  Serbian men. The Treaty of Versailles, seeking to establish a strong ally in the region against what it saw as the threat of communism, joined Serbia with other Baltic regions to create the new Kingdom of Yugoslavia (the land of Southern Slavs) under Serbian King Peter I. In an echo of twenty years earlier, Peter's autocratic son, Alexander I, was assassinated, shot by a Macedonian dissident while on an overseas visit. Tensions worsened and a much weakened Yugoslavia was invaded by
  • the Axis Powers in WW2, with many Serbs imprisoned, tortured and killed in concentration camps. The collaboration between Croatia's puppet government and the occupying Nazi forces remains a very sensitive topic to this day. Following Yugoslavia's liberation by Soviet forces in 1944, a Socialist Yugoslav republic was established under the strong rule of Josep Tito. Following Tito's death in 1980, the tensions resurfaced, resulting in the Balkan wars of the 1980s and 1990s, which saw ethnic cleansing and the killing and forced migrations of civilians (including killing once again on the streets of Sarajevo) that lead to war crimes trials at The Hague, at which many Serbian leaders (and some officials from the other regions) were found guilty of war crimes, even as Serbian finally gained full independence in 2006. In 1914 the German Empire was growing fast and had, partly due to the 3 quite short, successful conflicts that had helped bring about German unification, become the dominant power in continental Europe. The previous experience meant that the German military, government and people planned for a successful outcome to a short war and not for World War I, which dragged on for over four years with huge casualties and an increasing scarcity of both military and civilian essential resources (food rationing had been enforced since 1917) and it was a dispirited, resentful and divided Germany that surrendered in November 1918. The frustration of the German military, many of whom had been keen to fight on was made worse by the enforced disarmament required by the Treaty of Versailles, whereas the reparations and being forced to give up 13% of its territory and one tenth of its population lead to the German economy collapsing in the 1920s and laid the seeds for Hitler's rise to power for WWII.
  • John Redmond (an Irish MP and member of the Irish Parliamentary Party) had been the leading figure in the nationalist cause prior to WW1 and he is remembered today mainly for encouraging Irish nationalists to join the British army in order to bring about Home Rule. As the war progressed, the Irish nationalist cause became increasingly split by new approaches such as Sinn Fein and the Irish Volunteers and by the time of the 1916 Easter Rising, Redmond was pushed to the side and when the British Government backtracked on the previous agreement by committing to exclude Ulster from Home Rule, splitting Ireland in 2, Redmond felt abandoned by his former allies. Redmond then suffered the further personal tragedy of loss of his brother, in action at the Battle of Messines. Redmond then tried but failed to unite the various nationalist factions in Irish politics and died, in his own words "a broken man" in 1918 while the war still continued. Often criticized, Redmond became a largely forgotten  figure in the Irish independence movement, until a new biography, the first one for 81 years, was published in 2013. The events of Easter 1916 saw the leadership of the Irish independence movement pass to the younger generation led by people like Eamon De Valera and Michael Collins. However the splits that this created in the Irish national movement lead to both civil war in Ireland and the partitioning of Ireland (with great deal of sectarian violence and conflict) to this day. But ultimately the occurrence and events of  WW1 hindered home rule for Ireland in 1914 but also helped shape the destiny of Ireland's status as a self-governing 'free state' since 1922 and the establishment of The Republic of Ireland in 1949.
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