It is now 100 years since the First World War was concluded with the Treaty of Versailles in June 1919 and the establishment of the ill-fated League of Nations on 10 January 1920.
Some 38 million in total, including nearly nine million military personnel, were killed.
The duplicity and treachery of the Allies during and after the war was breathtaking.
On 24 October 1915, the British High Commissioner to Egypt, sent Sharif Hussein, Governor of Mecca, a note declaring Britain’s willingness to recognise the independence of the Arabs, both in the Levant and the Hejaz, subject to certain exemptions.
What the naïve Arab leadership did not know was that negotiations commenced in November 1915, a month after the Arabs had been promised independence, between France and Britain for a carve-up of the Ottoman territories.
The Sykes–Picot Agreement, officially known as the Asia Minor Agreement, was a secret agreement between the governments of the United Kingdom and France, concluded on 16 May 1916.
It effectively divided the Arab provinces of the Ottoman Empire outside the Arabian Peninsula into areas of future British and French control.
The war had a profound effect upon Australia. A whole generation was wiped out. At that time only 5 million lived in this country. 416,809 men enlisted, of whom more than 60,000 were killed and 156,000 wounded, gassed, or taken prisoner.
Despite the subject status of India, over one million Indian volunteers served overseas, of whom 62,000 died and another 67,000 were wounded.
In total at least 74,187 Indian soldiers died during the war.
There were signs of resistance to attacking the Ottoman Sultan, such as the infamous 1915 mass execution of Indian soldiers in Singapore, but the Empire was adept at propaganda.
Between 1914 and 1918, the Indian army grew from 240,000 to 548,311 men.
Writing for the BBC News Magazine 2 July 2015 Shashi Tharoor, a former minister in India’s Congress party and a former UN diplomat, recalled that in total there were 1.3 million Indian volunteer soldiers in the army during World War One.
He points out that the heavy taxation imposed upon the Indian people was sweetened with the promise of movement towards self-rule at the end of the war.
To date, Dominion status had been reserved for the “White Commonwealth” of Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa but Indian nationalists understood it would be awarded to India.
The British promises were as hollow as the promise to Sharif Hussein.
Failure to deliver meant that those who volunteered to fight for the Empire were forgotten.
“When the world commemorated the 50th anniversary of the First World War in 1964, there was scarcely a mention of India’s soldiers anywhere, least of all in India.
India’s absence from the commemorations, and its failure to honour the dead, were not a major surprise. Nor was the lack of First World War memorials in the country: the general feeling was that India, then freshly freed from the imperial yoke, was ashamed of its soldiers’ participation in a colonial war and saw nothing to celebrate.”
Support for the British Empire from an oppressed colony might seem strange today, but the hundreds of years experience in deception exercised by the British Empire, which ruled a quarter of the earth’s surface with a small number of individuals, should not be underestimated.
It fooled the Arab nationalists, the Indian nationalists and its own population.
The Brexiteers seem to be repeating the lesson today.