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World War I ended 100 years ago, but what if it happened now?

Related Story: The unknown story of the tiny town that suffered the greatest loss in WW1

Meet Jame..

Related Story: The unknown story of the tiny town that suffered the greatest loss in WW1

Meet James, he is 21 and a labourer. He loves the cricket, hopes to start his own business and hangs out with his mate Harry on weekends.

He's been dating his girlfriend Ashleigh for six months, and she's told her best friend Lucy she's pretty sure he's the one.

James has never considered joining the army and the closest he's come to violence is seeing a fight at the pub.

Then war breaks out on the other side of the world and everything changes.

The devastating toll of a war that concluded 100 years ago is hard for us to perceive today, so ABC News has translated the impact into present-day terms.

Using figures supplied by the National Archives, if World War I happened in 2018, 2 million men would enlist including more than half-a-million men from NSW.

More than 1.6 million men would depart for war and by the end of it, 300,000 would die.

Black & white: Glass original whole plate negative

That's equivalent to wiping Wollongong off the map, or killing 50,000 more than the entire population of the Northern Territory.

About 15,000 women would sign up to serve as nurses and about 10,000 would be sent overseas.

By the time fighting ends, Australia would suffer the 2018 equivalent of around 750,000 casualties.

Based on various historical accounts, the ABC has created four fictional characters who represent some of the experiences of young people, whose lives were impacted by the Great War.

Characters James, Lucy, Harry and Ashleigh were everyday Australian friends in their 20s.

Join them on their journey and discover what life would have been like for them 100 years ago.

Volunteers queuing to enlist outside Victoria Barracks, Sydney, 1914-1916.

Within days of the war being declared, enlistment centres start popping up.

James is unsure about going as he has commitments at home, so he is not in the first rush to enlist.

But eventually Army officials start visiting James' work, pressuring him to sign up.

Those who don't want to go are branded "stay-at-homes", "disloyalists" and "slackers".

Under pressure from his friends and family, James and Harry — along with 37 per cent of all Australian men aged 18-44 — enlist and hope for the best.

Illustration of World War One soldiers riding horses and fighting in trenches and nurses treating wounded men.

James narrowly survives the Gallipoli campaign but is then sent to the Western Front — a far more deadly destination, according to historian Associate Professor Martin Crotty.

"Australians had to contend with artillery, deadly gas, machine guns, aeroplanes and barbed wire as they fought a lethal, well-trained and well-equipped enemy," Associate Professor Crotty said.

"They fought in mud so deep that men drowned in it, and in cold so intense that some froze to death."

Only a minority die quickly and cleanly, such as from a rifle shot to the head.

"Most deaths were uglier, often more lingering, and unimaginably painful," Associate Professor Crotty said.

Men with trench foot Australian soldiers march to front line position in the Ypres Sector in Belgium Australian soldiers resting en route to the trenches in December 1916.

James sees his mates buried alive, mangled by artillery, disembowelled by machine guns, poisoned by gas and skewered by bayonets.

"Some of the most harrowing stories detail the agonies of wounded men stranded in no man's land," Associate Professor Crotty said.

James is haunted by the sound of friends, and the enemy, screaming for help.

His girlfriend Ashleigh's best friend, Lucy, is serving as a nurse in a casualty clearing station — some of the closest facilities to the front line.

Australian nurses treat men in the Australian Casualty Clearing Station near Steenvoorde. Two men and a nurse apply a dressing to the leg of a wounded French soldier, at a mobile hospital south-west of Amiens in WW1.

She and the small team are swamped with thousands of men within days of a battle, sometimes whilst being bombed and showered by flying shrapnel themselves.

While fighting off exhaustion and sickness, Lucy also faces challenges she would not have previously fathomed, including ghastly wounds inflicted by artillery, multiple limb losses and a severe lack of doctors.

Some of the men beg her to let them die, with pain so extreme and injuries so severe.

Lucy helps feed some whose jaws have been shot away, and washes countless infected wounds.

Despite the confronting work, Lucy feels useful and respected.

According to the Australian War Memorial, nurses were frequently doing heavy physical labour, often living in squalid conditions and trying environments.

The return home

Somehow James survives the war, but he's traumatised from the constant bombing and stench of death.

On the surface James seems relatively unscathed, but he internalises his trauma.

Ship brings Australian troops home after the Armistice at Port Melbourne after returning from overseas, 1919. A group of women and children rejoicing in a street in Sydney at the signing of the Armistice.

For every Australian soldier killed in World War I, between two and three were wounded or gassed.

"Even disregarding the often-agonising wait for treatment and the painful procedures and recoveries, wounded soldiers were left with ailments such as missing or paralysed limbs, blindness, hacking coughs, chronic pain, neuroses and suicidal depression," Associate Professor Crotty said.

Many who survive their battlefield injuries face dramatically different lives.

"Their employment opportunities were limited and they were often spurned by the opposite sex, especially in the case of facial injuries," Associate Professor Crotty said.

Individual trauma feeds into social trauma

Ashleigh has been waiting patiently for James to return home, and the wait for updates on his survival is agonising.

The war affords some women greater social and economic autonomy, so Ashleigh decides to take up a job in the printing industry.

James and Ashleigh are reunited and quickly marry, but things aren't the same between them.

Illustration of WW1 veteran and his wife at home after the war, beer bottles sit on the table.

He is withdrawn and starts drinking heavily to help with night terrors and flashbacks.

Returning soldiers were more likely to get married than the general population, but their marriages ended in divorce at a much higher rate.

Research by the University of Melbourne in 2005 found there was also a rise in domestic violence.

A PhD thesis by Dr Elizabeth Nelson found some deserted husbands or boyfriends murdered their former partners, while stress disorders, frustration and other legacies like "shell shock" led to violent behaviours.

"The war contributed to both veterans' and civilian men's wife abuse by idealising male aggression and by provoking a range of experiences that personally disempowered men," research by Dr Nelson found.

A millinery class for war widows, 1919

"Failure to enlist, failure to fight, and failure to cope with horrifying memories of battle were some of the ways in which men fell short of their own and society's expectations of manliness."

The research found that in Victoria there was also official leniency towards returned-soldier perpetrators, both during and after the war, and such leniency extended to civilian defendants post-war too.

Some women disempowered

Lucy returns from the war and feels pressure to marry a man 20 years older than her to secure her economic future.

Once married, Ashleigh and Lucy "do the right thing" and quit their jobs.

Upon their return to Australia, nurses of WWI did not receive the same post-service financial benefits as their soldier counterparts, nor did they receive any kind of recognition for their work.

Before the war in 1911, there were 21,500 more men than women aged between 20 and 29, but by 1921 that figure had flipped with 22,500 more women.

Associate Professor Crotty said there would be even fewer marriage prospects for women than the numbers suggest.

"Some men suffered from impotency, many from reduced wage-earning potential, and some were so screwed up they probably wouldn't have been great fathers," he said.

Harry's rejection

This section contains the image of an Aboriginal veteran who has died.

James' mate Harry tries to enlist in the war with him, but is knocked back because he is part Aboriginal.

Three years later, the war effort becomes desperate.

Recruits become harder to find, and a conscription referendum fails.

Illustration of Indigenous man being shunned by white patrons as he walks into a veterans' club or pub post World War One.

A new military order in 1917 is made allowing "half-castes" to be enlisted, if examining medical officers are satisfied that one of the parents is of European origin.

Harry is an outstanding soldier and is treated as an equal on the battlefield.

He even receives the same wage as the other recruits.

Harry is awarded a military medaland promoted to corporal for his courage and leadership.

Soldiers returning to Australia on HMAT Medic in 1919.

But when Harry returns home, he doesn't feel welcome by veterans' organisations and is back under the authority of the Government Protector.

James avoids eye-contact with Harry at the local RSL, and he never goes back.

In some cases, Indigenous veterans like Harry had their wages stolen, while others died and were never given a proper service grave.

At least 1,000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander soldiers served during World War I, and as many as 8,000 may have signed up during World War II.

The aftermath

The impact of almost 40 per cent of working-age men enlisting in the war is almost incomprehensible today.

Imagine your Facebook feed full of grieving posts, with many of your friends and family directly or indirectly devastated by the conflict.

Australia had one of the highest proportion of casualties among those who enlisted — 64.8 per cent.

Hell Spit cemetery

Some country towns lost large sections of their workforces and football clubs lost teams of men.

Communities and families had to grieve without a body, with their loved one's remainsburied in Europe or the Middle-East

Many shattered men like James, and many widows, became reliant on government pensions to survive.

By 1931, the number of people on pensions reached 283,000, and the cost of pensions was equivalent to nearly half of the entire Commonwealth budget before the war.

An illustration of poppies

Long after their sacrifice, the service of Indigenous veterans like Harry and nurses like Lucy is at last being recognised.

A century on it is hard to comprehend the trauma the Australian community suffered after such mass casualties — even after converting the loss into today's terms.

However, we can honour the lost and try to understand.


Reporter: Laura Gartry

Producer: Nick Wiggins

Illustrations: Sharon Gordon

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Downing Street have bigger problems over the Brexit deal than losing the PR war

There are a lot of Conservative MPs who are worried tonight that Downing Street is losing the “air w..

There are a lot of Conservative MPs who are worried tonight that Downing Street is losing the “air war” over its deal with the European Union very badly – and many journalists agree.

Its true that anyone watching 24-hour television has had a near-uninterrupted line of critical voices about Theresa Mays accord with the EU27. But the bigger problem is not that they didnt have, say, James Cleverly, going to bat to explain why Mays deal is a good one for rolling news.

Its that the number of people on air who have already said things on live TV or radio that make it hard to see how they could possibly vote for Mays deal is already above the number that May would need to lose to be in danger. The combined Conservative-DUP majority is 14, which means she needs to lose seven MPs to be in danger. The DUP has come out against the deal so she is already trailing by three. Add Boris Johnson and Jacob Rees-Mogg, who have both gone on air to denounce the deal and she is down by five.

The government is not just past the point where its majority on paper is in danger, but where it is outside the area where any realistic Labour rebellion can save it. Theres a tendency to underrate the chances that Conservative MPs will rebel because so many other confrontations with Conservative rebels, whether they be pro-Europeans or Brexiteers, have ended with the rebels voting with the government. But crucially, in each of those cases, the government made a concession to buy off those rebels. In some cases, sure, those concessions turned out to be worth less than would-be-rebels thought they were. But in all of those cases the government didnt have to put those concessions into a binding treaty that could be examined by MPs before they vote. In this case, they do.

And thats why while it is a problem for the government that they are losing the air war, it is a tiny one compared to the much bigger problem that they do not as it stands have a path to passing their Brexit deal through the House of Commons and it is tricky to see where they are going to get one.

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman and the PSA's Journalist of the Year. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics.

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No Nut November: the insidious internet challenge encouraging men not to masturbate

What may appear to be just another weird and bizarre internet challenge is underpinned by extreme mi..

What may appear to be just another weird and bizarre internet challenge is underpinned by extreme misogyny and threats of violence.

“Well done to the soldiers fighting on the front lines. And a moment of silence for our fallen comrades,” reads one post. “We must stay strong and continue the challenge for them,” reads another. “For my brothers still out there, we have survived almost two weeks,” reads a previous post, “Two weeks of self-determination.” “I will NOT lose this battle!” reads another.

These posts may read like an army motivational board, a triathlon training forum, or even, generously, a gamer thread. However they belong to one particular forum on social network Reddit that has exploded in popularity over the last several years. Growing out of the annals of 4chan and similar internet message boards from the early noughtie, as well as being built on deeply traditional, historically puritanical views, the movement has grown to the tens of thousands, with hundreds posting on the sub-Reddit every single day. The forum is No Nut November: the internet challenge encouraging men not to ejaculate (or “nut”) for an entire month.

The rules of No Nut November (often abbreviated to NNN) are relatively straightforward: the key being not to orgasm for the entire month of November. Details of the rules on the sub-Reddit include lines like “ONE WET DREAM ALLOWED”, “NEBs (Non-ejaculatory masturbation) and pre-cum are allowed”, and “SEX IS A DISQUALIFICATION, BIRTHDAY SEX INCLUDED”. A motivational post on the sub-Reddit, giving helpful guidance to those participating, includes advice such as “DONT. EDGE.”, “Keep your bladder empty”, and “Dont be alone”.

No Nut Novembers popularity has grown so rapidly in the last few years that it has managed to penetrate the mainstream. Burger King even tweeted on 1 November referring to the challenge: “him: its only a month / waifu [slang for a female partner derived from anime and manga]: ………..[crying emoji]”. On one Reddit forum dedicated to adults trying to relate to young people, a post with over forty thousand upvotes read, “Yep guys. Burger King just acknowledged No Nut November.”

him: it's only a month
waifu: ………..

— Burger King (@BurgerKing) November 1, 2018

This may, initially, appear to be your average, dumb, internet challenge; something bizarre and fleeting, like eating a teaspoon of cinnamon or chugging a gallon of milk within an hour. The type of online trend that, although perhaps unpleasant, is nothing but harmless. However, NNN is different. While some participating in the month-long abstinence period may be doing just that, simply participating; the challenge has a darker side and often dangerous consequences that affect more people than those just participating. I spoke to Girl on the Net, a sex blogger who has written extensively on topics such as masturbation, sex-positivity, and the effects of porn on our mental health – key to the No Nut November philosophy. She shed a light on how No Nut November began.

“NNN came out of the NoFap movement, which began on Reddit, with guys encouraging each other to give up masturbation,” she says. Indeed, the NoFap sub-Reddit began in 2011, when one Redditor discovered a study that argued men who abstained from masturbating saw huge spikes in their testosterone levels after a week. While initially built merely on this foundation, the NoFap community has become linked to wider sexism and misogyny, reducing women to sexual objects to be attained or abstained from and shaming sexually active women. And this is no niche philosophy. The NoFap sub-Reddit, at the time of writing, has 377,000 subscribers.

“There is a lot of myth and misogyny mixed in with what is essentially a fairly harmless personal challenge” Girl on the Net tells me. “I suspect most people doing NNN are doing it for personal reasons; they think they're spending too much time wanking, for instance, and want to see if they can spend their time on other things.” (more…)

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An agreement in Brussels is only the beginning of Theresa Mays problems

Britains divorce from the EU is approaching its Westminster endgame. With a Brexit deal agreed betwe..

Britains divorce from the EU is approaching its Westminster endgame. With a Brexit deal agreed between both sets of negotiators in Brussels, Theresa Mays cabinet will meet tomorrow afternoon to consider a draft of the withdrawal agreement. Ministers also will meet the Prime Minister individually this evening.

While we dont yet know what the text of that agreement says, we do know what Brexiteer cabinet ministers dont want to be in it: an Irish border backstop in the form of a “temporary” customs union that cannot be left unilaterally by the United Kingdom. The best that the EU will offer is a multilateral “review mechanism”, not a time limit or one-sided break clause.

We also know what the DUP will not accept: a backstop that only applies to Northern Ireland, or provisions within a UK-only backstop that apply to Northern Ireland alone. A customs union in and of itself wont prevent a hard border, so the latter will be needed at the very least. By the DUPs uncompromising logic, this is merely disingenuous new packaging for the same unacceptable reality.

Reports from Brussels suggest the deal will contravene both of those red lines. Just as important as the word “deal”, however, is “draft”: nothing will be finalised until it is signed off by the EU Council this month or next. If the shape of the agreement is as expected, we should also expect Cabinet resignations. May then faces a choice between ploughing heedlessly on with a deal that cannot win the support of her executive, to say nothing of the legislature, or returning to Brussels to beg for more concessions. Neither path looks likely to generate a happy outcome.

Patrick Maguire is the New Statesman's political correspondent.

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