WINGLESS BIRD/Episode 3/Intro by Russell Baker
As tonight's episode of "The Wingless Bird" begins, we are on the eve of the first World War. Agnes Conway's father has had a fatal heart attack and Agnes has inherited his business and is rich.
Money isn't enough though to bring Charlie Farrier's parents around to the idea of Charlie's marrying Agnes. Upper-class pride has no objection to money, but it doesn't want shopkeepers spoiling the purity of the family tree.
Charlie is determined to marry Agnes anyhow, but matters become more complicated when he turns up at Agnes's house dangerously ill with pneumonia. Charlie's mother finally agrees to swallow enough of her pride to go there to see him but only after she's been told he may die.
Concluding episode, The Wingless Bird.
WINGLESS BIRD/Episode 3/Extro by Russell Baker It's always said that the first World War shattered Europe's Century of Peace, but it hadn't really been all that peaceful.
There had been a lot of Colonial Warfare in Asia and Africa. And there had been the Boer War at the turn of the century and the Crimean War between England and Russia in the 1850s -- and the Franco-Prussian War in the 1870s.
What the Great War really shattered was Europe's self-confidence.
Reg Farrier expresses the horror of a devastated and disillusioned generation when he tells Agnes that what's happening in France isn't war -- it's "slaughter-house killing, a massacre."
What had happened during the century of peace was a technological revolution in weaponry.
The machine gun had arrived. Heavy artillery had been perfected. The tank was on its way. Everybody had poison gas, and used it.
Historians still marvel at the stupidity of the generals. For four years they persistently sent masses of lightly armed men charging head-on against the new killing machines.
But the politicians were probably just as stupid. They had reached a stalemate -- and needed a negotiated peace, but refused to negotiate.
War had been industrialized. For four years the slaughter was terrible.
Before 1914, Englishmen like Captain Farrier still thought of war as a gallant activity -- the sort of thing celebrated in Tennyson's poem about the horseback charge of the Light Brigade in the 1850s.
The age of industrial killing ended all that.
In the words of the poet Howard Nemerov, World War One was "a fatal smash-up between the horse and the automobile."
For Masterpiece Theatre, I'm Russell Baker. Goodnight.
Episode number: 1 2 3
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