The White Feather and What Really Caused WWI

The White Feather and What Really Caused WWI

The commonly held notion that WW1 was started
out of outrage over the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria and his wife Sophie
at the hands of the Serbian nationalist secret society known as the “Black Hand” isn’t
entirely correct. In fact, the Emperor Franz Josef himself expressed
relief over the assassination because it rid him of an heir that he deeply disliked. The Emperor commented that “God will not
be mocked. A higher power had put back the order I couldn’t
maintain.” It wasn’t just the Emperor who was relieved;
it was reported by an Austrian newspaper that the general consensus among the various political
circles was that the assassination, though a tragedy, was for the best. As far as the Austrian people were concerned,
it was noted “The event almost failed to make any impression whatever. On Sunday and Monday, the crowds in Vienna
listened to music and drank wine as if nothing had happened.” So why go to war over an assassination if
nobody cared? Because, while nobody seemed to much care
about the assassination itself, Austria-Hungary had been looking for an excuse to wage a “preventative
war” against Serbia as a state in order to weaken or destroy them so as to take back
territory in the Balkans that had been taken during the Balkan Wars. They had not taken it back up to this point
because they lacked Germany’s support; without that support, they feared Russia too much. (Russia had a treaty with Serbia.) With the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand
and his wife on June of 1914, Austria-Hungary was able to secure the promise from Germany
that it would aid in a war with Serbia and possibly Russia, if Russia chose to enter
the fray. It should be noted here that Austria-Hungary
did not really expect Russia to enter the fight as they expected this to be a very small
war that would be over quickly before Russia would feel obligated to respond. Now with Germany’s support if Russia did
enter the war, Austria-Hungary issued an ultimatum to Serbia with remarkably severe terms that
Serbia would be sure to reject, thus giving Austria-Hungary an excuse to go launch a limited
war on Serbia to reclaim territory in the Balkans. Surprisingly, Serbia responded relatively
well to the ultimatum, but they did dispute a few clauses, giving Austria-Hungary the
excuse they needed to go to war. At this point, the following general series
of events happened due to a variety of existing treaties between various nations, escalating
this minor clash into the first “Great War”. WWI MapRussia, bound by their treaty with
Serbia, decided to come to Serbia’s aid. Germany, with the recent treaty with Austria-Hungary,
declared war on Russia. France, bound by an existing treaty with Russia,
now was at war with Germany by association. Germany then invaded neutral Belgium to have
easy access to France. Britain, allied with France with an existing
treaty, declared war against Germany. This was unexpected by Germany as they thought
Britain would stay out of the war due to the fact that the treaty with France was loosely
worded and not entirely binding. However, Britain also had a 75 year old treaty
with Belgium. So because of both of these treaties, they
decided to declare war on Germany. With Britain now warring with Germany, Canada,
India, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa were obligated to enter the war as well. Japan then honored an existing treaty with
Britain and declared war on Germany. Austria-Hungary declared war on Japan for
declaring war on Germany. The U.S. tried to stay out of the war but
in 1917 decided to enter due to Germany’s submarines hindering the United States’
commercial shipping. (The U.S. was shipping a lot of supplies to
the Allies.) So in the end, a minor land dispute turned
into a lengthy war that resulted in the deaths of over 17 million people, with another 20
million or so wounded. (The tail end of the war was also around the
same time the Spanish Flu was killing 50-100 million- yes million- people and infecting
roughly 1 in 4 humans. At the same time, the mysterious encephalitis
lethargica epidemic was killing about one million more and leaving countless others
as human paperweights.) While the war may have started for petty reasons,
the danger to those on the home front was very real. Edward Thomas, the inspiration for the famous
poem “The Road Not Taken”, noted of this: a sky of dark rough horizontal masses in N.W.
with a 1/3 moon bright and almost orange low down clear of cloud and I thought of men east-ward
seeing it at the same moment. It seems foolish to have loved England up
to now without knowing it could perhaps be ravaged and I could and perhaps would do nothing
to prevent it… Something, I felt, had to be done before I
could look again composedly at English landscape… So while up to this point he had been indifferent
to the politics behind the war, he now began to consider that it really didn’t matter
what the war was being fought over; if the land and all that was on it was directly threatened,
it needed defending if it was to be preserved. (For more on Edward Thomas and why Frost’s
point in “The Road Not Taken” is the opposite of what most people think, see: Robert Frost’s
Almost Universally Misinterpreted Poem “The Road Not Taken” and the Role it Played in
the Death of His Best Friend.) So what does all this have to do with white
feathers? The idea of a white feather being synonymous
with cowardice stretches back to at least the 18th century, supposedly from the sport
of cock fighting, with the belief that cockerel’s sporting these white feathers were poor fighters. Whether that’s really how the notion started
or not, over time a white feather came to be associated with weakness and cowardice
in parts of Britain, notably appearing in the 1902 novel The Four Feathers and the 1907
The White Feather. ArnoldBennettColliersWeeklyThis brings us
to August of 1914 when Vice-Admiral Charles Penrose Fitzgerald came up with an idea to
bolster recruitment rates (at this point in the war, enlisting was voluntary) – have
women present white feathers to any man on the streets who wasn’t wearing a uniform. To help accomplish this goal, Fitzgerald recruited
a group of 30 women to hand out the feathers to any man they saw out of uniform in his
home town of Folkestone, dubbing the newly formed group “The Order of the White Feather”. When the British Press got wind of the campaign
and reported on it, many women across the country reacted in kind and similarly began
handing out white feathers to any man they saw in civilian clothes. This campaign was inflamed by numerous forms
of propaganda and rampant rumors about the “Rape of Belgium“, graphically speaking
of Germans brutally torturing Belgium women and children and implying the same would happen
in Britain if the men of the country didn’t go to war. As one war poster stated, “Britain is Fighting
not only for Freedom in Europe, but to defend your mothers, wives, and sisters from the
horrors of war!” In a propaganda poster directed at women,
it stated “To the young women of London: Is your ‘Best Boy’ wearing Khaki? If not don’t YOU THINK he should be? If your young man neglects his duty to his
King and Country, the time may come when he will NEGLECT YOU!” These types of campaigns worked remarkably
well. Journalist Helen Ball even went so far as
to write in 1916, “a husband lying in a rough grave in France is easier to bear than
a ‘shirker by your side’.” On a similar note, in a July of 1915 edition
of the Times, one Ethel M. penned a personal column noting, “Jack FG. If you are not in khaki by the 20th I shall
cut you dead.” As the Order of the White Feather grew, it
was reported that gangs of young “Feather Girls” would go around handing feathers
out to men on the streets. William Brooks noted of this (in an interview
he gave in 1993 about why he joined up to fight in WW1 all those years ago), Once war broke out the situation at home became
awful, because people did not like to see men or lads of army age walking about in civilian
clothing, or not in uniform of some sort, especially in a military town like Woolwich. Women were the worst. They would come up to you in the street and
give you a white feather, or stick it in the lapel of your coat. A white feather is the sign of cowardice,
so they meant you were a coward and that you should be in the army doing your bit for king
and country. It got so bad it wasn’t safe to go out. So in 1915 at the age of seventeen I volunteered
under the Lord Derby scheme. Now that was a thing where once you applied
to join you were not called up at once, but were given a blue armband with a red crown
to wear. This told people that you were waiting to
be called up, and that kept you safe, or fairly safe, because if you were seen to be wearing
it for too long the abuse in the street would soon start again. James Lovegrove, who was 16 when he joined
the war effort, wrote: On my way to work one morning a group of women
surrounded me. They started shouting and yelling at me, calling
me all sorts of names for not being a soldier! Do you know what they did? They struck a white feather in my coat, meaning
I was a coward. Oh, I did feel dreadful, so ashamed. I went to the recruiting office. The sergeant there couldn’t stop laughing
at me, saying things like “Looking for your father, sonny?”, and “Come back next year
when the war’s over!” Well, I must have looked so crestfallen that
he said “Let’s check your measurements again”. You see, I was five foot six inches and only
about eight and a half stone. This time he made me out to be about six feet
tall and twelve stone, at least, that is what he wrote down. All lies of course – but I was in!” In another example, architect William Weller
was the recipient of both a feather and the then somewhat common associated shaming letter. Weller, had been excused from military service
due to a combination of illness, being in his 40’s, and the fact that he was helping
design and build homes for steel workers. This didn’t stop him from receiving the
following note in the mail with an included white feather: Sir, Your gallant and protracted defence against
the brutal attacks of the local tribunal has been brought to the notice of the Supreme
Council of the Most Noble Order of the Trench Dodgers. I am to inform you that the council have therefore,
as a reward for your devotion to self regardless of narrow patriotism, made you a companion
of the said most Noble Order, the insignia of which is forwarded herewith. I am. Sir Your obedient servant, A. Chicken Heart, Clerk of the Council Poster issued in 1915 by the British Parliamentary
Recruitment Committee Poster issued in 1915 by the British Parliamentary
Recruitment Committee In a 2008 article published in The Guardian,
Francis Beckett told the story of his grandfather who was shamed into fighting in the war and
ultimately perished because of it: He had three small daughters, which saved
him from conscription, and his attempt to volunteer was turned down in 1914 because
he was short-sighted. But in 1916, as he walked home to south London
from his office, a woman gave him a white feather… He enlisted the next day. By that time, they cared nothing for short
sight. They just wanted a body to stop a shell, which
Rifleman James Cutmore duly did in February 1918, dying of his wounds on March 28. My mother was nine, and never got over it…. She blamed the politicians. She blamed the generation that sent him to
war. She was with Kipling: “If any question why
we died, / Tell them, because our fathers lied.” … But most of all, she blamed that unknown
woman who gave him a white feather, and the thousands of brittle, self-righteous women
all over the country who had done the same… As you can imagine, since the only criteria
for being given a white feather was “not wearing a military uniform at that particular
moment” some of the men presented with them actually were soldiers who were either on
leave or had been discharged. Unsurprisingly, few soldiers took kindly to
being called a coward and reactions ranged from snide dismissal to outright aggression,
including one unfortunate incident in which Private Ernest Atkins unchivalrously slapped
the woman presenting him with the feather with his military paybook. Sometimes, however, the campaign was even
successful on former soldiers. Case in point- Frederick Broom was a young
man of just 15 years of age who managed to convince recruiters he was 19 and fought on
the Western Front for a year before contracting a severe fever and being sent home. While enjoying a stroll shortly after his
16th birthday, Broom was accosted by three girls who gave him a handful of white feathers
while a gathered crowd chided him for being a coward. He stated, “I explained to them that I had
been in the army and been discharged, and I was still only 16. Several people had collected around the girls
and there was giggling, and I felt most uncomfortable and … very humiliated.” Broom was so shaken by the experience, he
re-enlisted the next day. Sadly, this isn’t the only example of a
far too young man being shamed into fighting in WW1 and many young men barely out of puberty
are reported to have enlisted (or at least attempted to) for this reason. For instance, in another shaming letter incident,
an anonymous note was written on the back of what is thought to be a 10 year old boy’s
picture: What a promising boy… Now wear this brooch and buttons and your
frilly white dress. ‘Whilst your brother goes to war (his older
brother was 16 at the time and a member of the Royal Field Artillery), riding gallantly,
the town all sees your ways… Chicken you are!! Arguably the most glaring mistake made by
the so-called members of the Order of the White Feather was the case of Seaman George
Samson who was presented with a feather while he was on his way to a party being held in
his honor for earning a Victoria Cross (Britain’s highest medal for gallantry). He earned the Cross by rescuing 30 sailors
during the Gallipoli campaign while acquiring for himself more than a dozen bullet wounds
in his torso. A._Fenner_BrockwayOf course, then there was
the likes of famed pacifist and future MP Fenner Brockway who happily noted that he’d
received enough white feathers to make a fan. (He was imprisoned during the war for refusing
to pay a fine for distributing a leaflet opposing conscription and then later again arrested
for refusing to be conscripted. He noted of the latter arrest, “I was taken
to the Tower of London and locked in a large dungeon where there were 20 or so prisoners. Six were objectors. I was to be taken to Chester Castle and my
wife travelled with me. The Cheshire Regiment did not have a good
reputation for its treatment of objectors. The previous week the newspaper had carried
reports of how George Beardsworth and Charles Dukes [both subsequently prominent trade union
leaders] had been forcibly taken to the drilling ground and kicked, punched, knocked down and
thrown over railings until they lay exhausted, bruised and bleeding. I was a little apprehensive…”) Hundreds of feathers were also given to civil
servants, factory workers and a whole host of others who actually were aiding the war
effort in some way, shape or form. This became a major problem, but of course
the Order was very successful at recruiting, so calls to have Order members arrested were
ignored. Instead, the Home Secretary of Great Britain,
Reginald McKenna, authorised the government to begin production of various special badges
in 1916. For instance, there was the “King and Country”
badge, that indicated the man wearing it was aiding in the war effort in some form or other,
and then the Silver War Badge, that indicated the individual wearing it had served and been
honourably discharged due to wounds or sickness. This did little to help the conscientious
objectors, however, such as Oxford University’s Joseph Kaye, who was quoted in The Courage
of Cowards: The Untold Stories of First World War Conscientious Objectors as stating, How is it possible for a greengrocer say,
or a labourer in some small town in Germany, to have any kind of grievance with a shopkeeper
or a gardener in… St. Albans for example? They are just ordinary men, working to provide
a living for their families. They both want fundamentally the same thing,
whichever country they live in, and yet they are being forced to blow one another to pieces
with guns and bombs. It’s immoral, plain and simple. And what’s more, the working man on either
side will gain nothing from this war, whatever the outcome. Every country involved will be bankrupt by
the end of it and who will suffer? Not the men in power, that’s for sure…. If you look at how much Britain has spent
on this war already, it’s enough to provide every family in this country with a decent
house and a piece of land. Why can the government find money to fund
a war, but not provide a reasonable standard of living for its citizens?

100 thoughts on “The White Feather and What Really Caused WWI

  1. "Wow pussy not gone to war? Take this fucking feather loser!" *runs back and hides in bunker in back yard Any time something bangs

  2. My great-grandfather was wounded in the trenches. He lost half his right hand and was sent back to England to recuperate. While there, he had white feathers pinned to his chest.

    He bent her over his knee, pulled down her pants and gave her a spanking with his half hand. I'm sad that I never got a chance to meet him.

  3. It's been over 100 years and it is no different today. In all that time, we [humans] have not learned a damn thing, save for how to better and more effectively kill each other.

  4. Wartime hysteria at its finest.

    I'm kind of surprised this sort of thing didn't start a 1920s version of the incel movement.

  5. As horrible as these tactics were, it was horrible because of how effective it was. It almost certainly had a positive effect for the British war effort, makes me wonder if something similar could pop up in future conflicts if we get sufficantly desprate enough

  6. I wouldn't trust myself not to hit someone who did that to me, regardless of gender. I know that sounds AWFUL, but I just can't lie to myself about it. I'd probably break.

  7. This story pisses me off. Humiliating people into joining the army and possibly dying is low as hell morally. I wish women at the time were allowed to join the army, because if that were the case.. not a single woman would have walked around with feathers.

  8. The last quote needs to be repeated to the masses. It is still the case, if not even on a larger scale now. smh

  9. Oh no i was slapped that was tragic.

    Meanwhile young boys being shot, shelled and outright living worse than rats. Because some woman gave that boy a feather.

  10. And this is why gender inequality has to stop … ridiculous pressures on everyone … only seeing a gender and not a PERSON

  11. I have been listening to Dan Carlin, he mentions this in some detail in his podcasts, but is quick to point out that the mindset and the mentality of people 100 years ago would have been different than today. He does not believe that the "Order of the white feather" would gain any traction or even be acceptable today.


  13. So I guess Blackadder's summary of why there even was a war isn't that far off.
    "It was simply too much bother NOT to go to war."

  14. Italy went in war too, in may 25 ,1915 deploying 5.728.277 men and breaking the treaty he had with germany due to the fact that the excuse for the war was obviously a farce.When Italy closes hostilities officially , at 3 p.m. november 24 1918 , 700.000 (680.071 to be precise ) man and women had lost their life in the big war….

  15. This is why universal conscription should be UNIVERSAL–men AND WOMEN are forced to go to war. I don't care how women end up in the front lines, but they should end up there, seeing the fierce brutality of it. This is how PATRIARCHY fucks over men really good–men are always the ones who are forced, most against their will, to make 90% of the blood sacrifices in a war. If we want true equality, that shouldn't be the case at all. Women should join in the "fun" too…

  16. Lots of people are blaming feminism. But it was patriarchy that led to this. You have to remember that it was powerful men that got WWI started. It was powerful men who told those women to become these white-feather-wielding bitches. It was powerful men who told men and boys to "do your duty for king and country" and told women and girls to act "feminine" and not enlist in the war as full soldiers if they felt like it. Patriarchy told women they were too weak to fight in the war. Patriarchy told men that they needed to be strong and show themselves to be "real men." Fuck patriarchy.

  17. I have heard of the white feather thing but only in the context of fictional stories (the four feathers etc.). Had no idea it was that widespread and real. I guess when people get desperate and worked up they will do anything even bully kids off to die. Which is the sad part, a lot of these people seemed to have not even been of enlistment age.
    FYI, even those not deployed overseas faced risks, my grandfather was in the US army stateside, during WWI, I still have his unit roster (now over a hundred years old) which listed a whole spate of casualties. General belief is it was a railway accident…

  18. How can this be women are not warmongers and have no power over men you're not reading feminist theory hard enough! Such thought crimes will be reported to big sister!

  19. "Shame people until they are sent to kill and die on foreign land because our politicians can't solve their issues"

  20. yeah i feel for those lads… trying and then not getting in, then being called a coward… which is easy to do when you don't have to go over and take a bullet

  21. Let’s remember that was the mentality then, woman would never be accepted in the army or anything but secretary work really… still I can’t imagine myself or anyone I know doing the same specially if you can only stand and wait it would be maddening! They represent this twisted side of society and what they did was nothing too short of domestic terrorism

  22. Why didn't those bags raise a regiment and go to France themselves if they wanted to win the war so badly !!!

  23. As a former Marine, for a while I was against women being in combat roles (its complicated). However, as i've been out for a while and really think about it, im all for it. I'm happy women have to sign up for selective service, and I hope women do serve as infantry one day. Men have bled and died enough and its time for women to bleed a bit too; they certainly want to reap the benefits that have come through the deaths of so many many and so they should contribute to 'watering' the tree of liberty.

  24. It's easy to declare others to be cowards when you aren't expected to fight and die. This is peak female privilege (including the privilege of this being criminally unknown in modern times).

  25. Sir could you commemorate the philippine battalion during korean as well as what did say Gen. MacArthur" Give me 10 thousand filipino soldier of well arm and I will conquer the world". he said that during the korean war.

  26. You said it was "unfortunate" that a man slapped a woman who gave him a white feather. Why? Fuck that cunt. If the bitch wants to complain about a man not being in the military then she should dress as a man and join too.

  27. Grammar police! The term "general consensus" is redundant, as a consensus is a general opinion. People seem to use it as if it means unanimity. Love your videos though, Simon!

  28. Wow. Here in the US we fight over oil. But the rest of the world fights over women?
    Hmm… Helen of Troy, that must of been some piece of ass.

  29. That shame crap wouldn't work on me. I would just spit at the thought and tell them to F off.
    Lol good for that guy for slapping the thot with is military paybook.

  30. Has anybody ever read of a memoirist recount with regret how she compelled young men to die senselessly because she has to the power to shame them? I mean, that's the power of applied feminism, but for some reason, I don't know of any member of the white feather order who ever came forward to tell how she helped win the Great War

  31. A campaign inviting to die on the battlefield, and bring sorrow to your parents, children and the rest of the family, campaign carried out by women who just sat at home, while men died out there. What a fucking load of moron feather women, I wish they got slapped with a suitcase more often…

  32. If humans had any sense, all the soldiers on every side would have shot the people telling them they had to kill other poor people. It's a racket.

  33. Brilliant last quote… the higher ups lose nothing when the rest of us lose friends and family, but the well informed only see #'s not people or lives half lived

  34. The ridiculousness of women.
    Women are always at their worst when they form casual committees about correct personal and societal behaviour.

  35. Ah, WWI, the Great War. A war that would've been a damn sight easier if we'd all just stayed home in England and shot 50,000 of our own men every week. One more argument amongst the wealthy fought and paid for by the blood of the poor.

  36. Leave it to a mob of shrills and shrews to react on appearance alone, immediately, and without care for facts or reality.

  37. "Why can the government find money to fund a war, but not provide a reasonable standard of living for its citizens?" Because it's not the job of the government to provide a standard of living for its citizens. Instead, the government is meant to furnish a defense of the state against all enemies.

  38. how does one get deemed to shortsighted to enlist for WWI? How does one even test such a thing in a stranger with no knowledge of personal history or examples of previous decisions?

  39. Your last statement concerning the expense of war deserves a big NO SHIT!
    If the old rich bastards want war, let them go fight it themselves!

  40. Meanwhile in 21st century Britain. A soldier, in or out of uniform is highly likely to be spat on, stabbed, beaten or even run down in the street. Especially if he has returned from active duty.

  41. Wow, is it possible for you to do a video without throwing up the 3 6's. Where ru getting all this outrageous information from? Your not really a journalist ru, you are a story teller I mean what the hell are u talking about. What is your point and why create a white feather when you can't even prove water doesn't bend. None of what you are talking about can be proved, none, zero.

  42. Never heard so much bull in my life. You're not a journalist, you're a story teller, Go find a story telling website, or learn how to tell one.

  43. Not women, feminists. The awful women who are now incorrectly lauded as heroines in films like Suffragette are the ones who went around putting white feathers on young boys and men, trying to shame them into doing what no feminist was willing to do. That's when they weren't plotting terrorist attacks or trying (stupidly) to pin things on race horses running at a full gallop (the one and only fatality among early UK feminists).

  44. I see where pregudice comes from, women with no jobs, education,rights,what you expect. What the say about idel hands?l

  45. An American would beat a woman to within an inch of her life if she pulled this white feather crap. We don't want cowards in our Army so leave the conscientious objectors where they are. Out of uniform thank God.p.s….no women in the combat arms.

  46. While I would've probably joined the army if I had lived in Britain, if I had chose not to, I would've collected all the feathers I was given and stuck them all in my hat via a small band. Sure, they could call me a coward all they'd like but I wouldn't care and if staying out of the war and thus alive and providing for my family was cowardice, then I would wear that "cowardice" as a badge of honor.

  47. Overall a nice video, but you left out one important piece of information: MANY prominent Suffragists were members of the Order of the White Feather. What's even more galling is that these exempt-from-the-draft often upper middle class or even wealthy women did this in order for political support in order to give themselves the right to vote : something they weren't fighting to obtain for the often working class men , subject to the draft, whom they were shaming into what often turned into a death sentence. Yes, only certain men could vote in GB at the time, there was no general male right to vote anymore than there was a female right to vote. Personally, I think women who attempt to shame men into wars they aren't going to have to help fight themselves should be forced to marry enlisted men upon their return WHETHER OR NOT THEY WERE MAIMED.

  48. English women hadn't gained the right to vote yet. I guess they figured they would have to be given some form of official status if there weren't any men left… ALIVE!

  49. I remember hearing these wise words “There comes a time when a real man has to say fuck everybody, ……and especially fuck these hoes,… can’t be loving these hoes out here in these streets!”
    Words to live by or words to live by.

  50. New fact for you. WW1 actually started because of a local man in Ilfracombe Devon.
    A local boy punched the Kaiser on a beach for skimming stones. He didn’t like the British after that.

  51. So the women/girls were manipulated by gang rape propaganda into bullying teenage boys & physically unfit men to "sign up" because they didn't have The Draft. That's really dispicable. Fear does terrible things to people & makes them do terrible things 🙁

  52. … and this children, is why I have always refused to have anything to do with, groups, clubs, associations, cliques, team or any other form of human collective.

  53. Wow the more we find out about Edwardian women the more they sound just like the gutter trash we have nowdays, you always think of them being austere and dainty.

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