Wittgenstein was a boozy swine…


…Who was just as sloshed as Schlegel.

According to Monty Python, at any rate.

But Wittgenstein was also a soldier, fighting for the Austrian empire and winning Silver Medal for Valour for remaining in the open under artillery fire, studying the trajectory of enemy mortar fire and using that colossal brain of his to calculate the precise location of the Russian guns.

The irony is that Wittgenstein’s former (and future) Cambridge friend and mentor, Lord Bertrand Russell, was also in action on this day – in the dock, defending himself against a charge of distributing pacifist literature. Russell won no medals although it must take courage to take such an unpopular stand. In his case, of course, he could afford the fine (£100) and his reputation was unaffected by the adverse publicity.

Others weren’t so lucky. Although the Germans had secretly already offered the Allies peace terms in early 1916, the war was still popular; men were still signing their names in fits of patriotic fervour. To object to the war was to invite ridicule, abuse and much, much worse.

The Somme and the awful death toll was still to come. As Russell said, ‘war doesn’t determine who is right; only who is left.’


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