1. ITV Report

WW1 soldiers didn't just sacrifice their life, they sacrificed their future

Simon Weston served as a Welsh Guardsman during the Falklands War and was aboard the Sir Galahad when it was destroyed. Credit: Johnny Green/PA Wire

By Cheryl Smith: ITV News

Falklands War veteran Simon Weston has told ITV News people must keep the legacy of the First World War alive and remember those that fought "didn't just sacrifice their life - they sacrificed their future."

Weston, who was aboard the Sir Galahad when it was destroyed during the Falklands War, said young people must learn about the Great War in a bid to prevent the same mistakes being made repeatedly.

"We should never forget the horrors of war or we're destined to go back there again and again and again without any thought, without any fear, without any trepidation," he said.

"We haven't learned enough about the First World War, I think people pay lip service to it."

British prisoners of war around a pile of gas masks near St. Quentin in 1917. Credit: Berliner Verlag/Archiv/DPA/Press Association Images

Weston's grandfather made wings for aircraft on the frontline during the First World War, and went on to serve in the infantry during WWII.

Asked what that meant to him Weston said: "I'm proud that he served, you can't be anything other than proud that he served in both those wars.

"Good people have to do the most unspeakable things, they have to serve in conflicts that they'd rather not be involved in, but you've got to beat the greater evil."

Weston stressed that there was a "naivety and innocence" among the men who signed up for the First World War, as there had never been a conflict on that scale before.

British troops coming home for Christmas leave in December 1916 Credit: Tophams/Topham Picturepoint/Press Association Images

"I can't believe for a second that people knew what they were going into," he said.

"People didn't know and they didn't understand - they thought they were going to come home to homes fit for heroes and they came with heroes fit for homes. These guys were broken and battered."

Speaking about the war's "lost generation," those who never made it back from the frontline, Weston said he would always have "a heavy heart".

What did we lose during the First World War? Did we lose the gene pool that could have cured cancer?

Did we lose somebody who could have come up with some scientific gem that could have bettered mankind?

Losing all of those people, I think we definitely lost some people that could have altered the way the world is for the better, and that's something we'll never know.

– Falklands War Veteran Simon Weston
The coffin of the Unknown Warrior being taken to Westminster Abbey on November 11, 1920. Credit: PA/PA Archive

He believes warfare itself hasn't changed greatly since the First World War, even if the weapons of war have.

"Shooting a rifle at somebody is the same whichever conflict you're in, whether you're shooting a musket in the Peninsular Wars or shooting a high-powered rifle now," Weston mused.

"It's slightly more clinical today but the ultimate thing is that you're risking your life or taking somebody else's ... Maybe weapons change but the human being never does."

Weston said he would be attending a memorial event in Belgium on August 4, which he described as a "bitter sweet" affair.

"It is hugely emotive and for somebody who's served, even though it was for a brief period, it just has that extra flavour," he added.

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