“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
When writer and philosopher George Santayana first uttered those famous words, he could never have imagined how prevalent they would come to be.
In the age of social media, when online content is consumed at an increasingly rapid rate, it would appear that millennials are failing to heed some of those very same warnings from history.
This assertion follows the publication of research, commissioned by Armed Forces charity SSAFA, showing that most millennials struggle to remember the basic facts when it comes to the First World War.
Over 18 million people were killed, with a further 23 million wounded during the so-called Great War, putting it among the deadliest conflicts in human history.
It’s a war that has shaped the very fabric of our society, with its ramifications still felt today.
Some young people out there apparently struggle to recall many of the details surrounding the conflict though – and it is the sort of stuff no one should really be getting wrong.
Nearly half of the millennials polled in the survey of 2,000 people actually believe Sir Winston Churchill was prime minister during the conflict, for example.
That might be forgivable, but the study also revealed that one in 10 thought Margaret Thatcher was Britain’s leader at the time.
The First World War ran from 1914 to 1918. Thatcher wasn’t born until 1925.
It gets worse though – around one in five of those respondents born around the start of the 21st century actually think Britain fought against France in the war.
There’s more – six per cent of millennial respondents claimed the war was triggered by the assassination of President John F. Kennedy while two thirds had no idea what the Home Front was.
Most depressing of all, some five per cent of millennial respondents actually believed
The Battle of Helm’s Deep – a fictional clash from The Lord Of The Rings – was the largest battle to take place during the war. Jesus.
Additionally, when asked to identify historic events from the war, 16 per cent listed Pearl Harbour, with 8 per cent citing Independence Day, 7 per cent suggesting the Battle of Hastings, and 4 per cent claiming the Great Fire of London occurred during the conflict.
Justine Baynes, director of SSAFA, said: “Millennials are the first generation who may not have known a family member who fought in World War One so it’s not surprising that there may be a lack of knowledge about the war.
“The further we move away from the conflict, the more important it becomes to keep the World War One stories of bravery and courage alive and commemorate those who gave up their lives for our country.”
The last surviving veteran from the conflict, Florence Green, passed away back in February 2012, just two weeks short of her 111th birthday having served in the Women’s Royal Air Force.