Otto English is the pen name used by Andrew Scott, a writer and playwright based in London.
In August 1914, Great Britain ruled over an empire the likes of which the world had never seen and one upon which the sun never set. A quarter of the earth’s population acknowledged George V as their king and Britain was the only true global superpower. If you messed with the British back then, you did so at your peril.
So when Europe erupted into war that summer and the British imperial army was mobilized to teach the upstart Kaiser Wilhelm a lesson, most people assumed the conflict would be short-lived. Britain and its allies would give the enemy a bloody nose, a few maps would be redrawn and everything would go on as before, as it always had.
Buoyed by jingoistic newspapers and patriotic fervor, volunteers descended on military recruitment offices, determined not to miss out on the fun. Cheering crowds waved the men off to war. It would “all be over by Christmas!” they said.
Only it wasn’t — nor was it for the three Christmases that followed. As the German offensive stalled, stalemate ensued and the youth of Europe set about butchering each other on the fields of Flanders and across the Continent. The consequences of the needless “Great War” ricocheted — like a rogue shell — down the course of the 20th century and into the 21st. Long, long after the Armistice of November 1918, the ramifications of that terrible conflict endured, permeating Europe’s political landscape.
Unless you have been living in the U.K. since 2016, it’s hard to fully grasp the scale of acrimony that now exists in the British Isles.