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1914: When a perfectly good war was ruined by a tragic outbreak of football

It would have been a great source of comfort for millions who died in foreign fields to know their noble sacrifice would still be honoured a century later, in an advert for a shop.


MILLIONS OF young men were slaughtered during the first world war – “body-bagged for life”, in Sainsbury’s parlance – and doubtless as they lay dying in foreign fields, gazing down at what remained of their mud-caked, punctured, broken bodies, gasping their final agonised breaths, it would have been a great source of comfort for them to know their noble sacrifice would still be honoured a century later, in an advert for a shop.

Hey, remember when Christmas used to last 12 days? Now it’s so bloated it’s virtually an epoch, lasting twice as long as the year it falls in. The early-warning signs keep changing: not so long ago the start of the holiday season was signified by the release of the Christmas edition of the Radio Times.

Now it’s the annual unveiling of the John Lewis ad, which this year features a boy arranging for a trafficked overseas bird to be smuggled into the country inside a small container and presented like a gift-wrapped object to the laddish penguin mate who exists only in his troubled mind.

They say psychopathic murderers often start their “careers” by doing ghastly things to animals: hopefully they’ll keep the storyline going year after year, as his illusory brain-penguin commands him to carry out increasingly hideous yuletide ceremonies, until eventually the advert consists of nothing but him appeasing the Penguin King by dancing in the moonlight wearing a necklace of ears and eyeballs, all of it seen through the sights of a police marksman positioned on the roof of a neighbour’s evacuated home.

But this year, the John Lewis ad has been overshadowed by gargantuan supermarket and noted humanitarian anti-war campaigner J Sainsbury PLC, and its tear-jerking period piece in which a perfectly good war is ruined by a tragic outbreak of football.

Shivering in a frosty trench – or “the frozen aisle”, in Sainsbury’s parlance – they pause to sing Silent Night, have a kickaround with their German counterparts, and bond over a chocolate bar. It’s all very poignant, if you mentally delete the bit where a supermarket logo hovers over the killing fields, which you can’t.

Boringly, the advert stops short of showing us the events of the following day, when war was resumed and they reverted to bayoneting one another in the face. Nectar points for each headshot, lads! Kill two Jerries, get one free!

Millions of young men were slaughtered during the first world war – “body-bagged for life”, in Sainsbury’s parlance – and doubtless as they lay dying in foreign fields, gazing down at what remained of their mud-caked, punctured, broken bodies, gasping their final agonised breaths, it would have been a great source of comfort for them to know their noble sacrifice would still be honoured a century later, in an advert for a shop.

Next year they’re doing the Sharpeville Massacre.

Source: The Guardian


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