Here are a selection of quotes (both well known and slightly more obscure), from people who lived and fought through the First World War. These are just a few of my favourites, I hope I have quoted them correctly (I am sure I will get told if I haven’t!) If you have a favourite quote that is not in this list, then why not let me know!
PS – If you are interested in learning more about WW1 then why not check out my new Great War 100 app which is now out on iOS and Android. The Great War 100 app tells the story of the First World War using infographics.
So, in no particular order…here are some interesting, amusing, sad, and ultimately, historic, quotes from the war to end all wars…
‘It is my Royal and Imperial command that you exterminate the treacherous English and march over General French’s contemptible little army.’ (Kaiser Wilhelm II, 1914)
‘The machine gun is a much over rated weapon..’ (Field Marshal Douglas Haig, 1915)
‘It takes 15,000 casualties to train a major general.’ (Ferdinand Foch)
‘Hard pressed on my right. My center is yielding. Impossible to maneuver. Situation excellent. I attack.’ (Ferdinand Foch during the First Battle of the Marne, Sept 1914)
‘You will be home before the leaves have fallen from the trees.’ (Kaiser Wilhelm II speaking to German troops in August 1914).
‘The nation must be taught to bear losses. No amount of skill on the part of the higher commanders, no training, however good, on the part of the officers and men, no superiority of arms and ammunition, however great, will enable victories to be won without the sacrifice of men’s lives. The nation must be prepared to see heavy casualty lists.’ (Written by Haig in June 1916 before the Battle of the Somme began).
‘Very successful attack this morning… All went like clockwork… The battle is going very well for us and already the Germans are surrendering freely. The enemy is so short of men that he is collecting them from all parts of the line. Our troops are in wonderful spirits and full of confidence.’ (A report by Haig on the first day of attack, 1st July 1916).
“Ils ne passeront pas!” – ‘They shall not pass!’ (Henri-Philippe Petain, during the Battle of Verdun, 1916).
‘I hate to shoot a Hun down without him seeing me, for although this method is in accordance with my doctrine, it is against what little sporting instincts I have left.’ (James McCudden, VC, RFC, 1917).
‘Inaction is atrophy, paralysis, death.’ (Ferdinand Foch).
‘The spell of Trafalgar has been broken.’ (The Kaiser after Jutland).
‘There was not a sign of life of any sort. Not a tree, save for a few dead stumps which looked strange in the moonlight. Not a bird, not even a rat or a blade of grass. Nature was as dead as those Canadians whose bodies remained where they had fallen the previous autumn. Death was written large everywhere.’ (Private R.A. Colwell, Passchendaele, January 1918).
‘Fight on and fly on to the last drop of blood and the last drop of fuel, to the last beat of the heart.’ (Baron Manfred von Richtofen).
‘I died in hell – (They called it Passchendaele).’ (Line from Memorial Tablet, Lieutenant Siegfried Sassoon, November 1918).
“…pretty mechanical toy but very limited military value”. (Lord Kitchener upon overseeing trials of the tank).
‘Retreat? Hell, we just got here!’ (US Marine Captain Lloyd W. Williams).
‘This is not peace, it is an armistice for 20 years.’ (Ferdinand Foch. After the Treaty of Versailles, 1919).
And perhaps my favourite WW1 quote: A poem called ‘The German Guns’ from a certain Private Baldrick…
Boom, Boom, Boom, Boom,
Boom, Boom, Boom,
Boom, Boom, Boom, Boom,
Boom, Boom, Boom.