This week’s war: Armistice

Statue commemoriating Captain Noel Chavasse and 15 other Liverpool-born recipients of the Victoria Cross, located in Abercromby Square

This Sunday marks both Remembrance Sunday and the centenary of Armistice Day, 100 years since the hostilities of the First World War were brought to an end.

Since August 4th 2014, 100 years since Britain declared war on Germany, we have been posting This week’s war, a series of excerpts from the collections detailing the war as it was, this week 100 years ago. To mark the Armistice centenary and to bring this series to an end, we will be reflecting on the end of war and where some of those mentioned over the last four years were in November 1918 and beyond.

In the 1918 diary of John Bruce Glasier [GP/2/1/25], who was a pioneer of the British Socialist movement and had been opposed to the war from the beginning, he expresses joy at the announcement of the Armistice. It appears that he may have written his entry for November 11th prior to hearing the news, and has added parts along the top and side of the page saying, ‘Great News, Peace Revolution’, and ‘Announced at noon today – Armistice signed. Peace!’.

A page from Glasier’s 1918 diary – GP/2/1/25

That afternoon Glasier found his plans to travel to London disrupted; he was unable to make his way to Manchester Station due to the streets being blocked with people gathering to celebrate the end of the war:

Girls and soldiers dancing, and boys and girls gawfawing and singing silly ditties. … All good humoured however.

[GP/2/1/25]

As those at home began to celebrate and reflect on the end of the war, the cessation of hostilities meant that the long task of repatriating soldiers to their home countries could begin. Repatriating some of the millions of soldiers abroad in Europe began soon after the Armistice, and Cunard vessels were some of those transporting Allied troops before ‘the guns were hardly cool after roaring out their last bombardment of the war’ [D42/PR3/8/4 ‘To the American Legion Cunard’]. The December 1918 edition of Cunard Magazine (D42/PR5/22), produced for staff, reminds readers that their drive for socks for servicemen abroad continues:

We can now look forward to the day when further contributions will no longer be needed, but in the meantime, ladies, the boys still remain at the front – so please carry on.

[D42/PR5/22]

It would take months for many to be returned home. J. H. Forshaw, an Architecture graduate of the University of Liverpool after the war, was in the Royal Engineers during the war and for a number of months following the war. War diaries from his papers [D113] describe the bridging and inspection work that he was carrying out with the Royal Engineers in France and Belgium until his dispersal on the 11th July 1919. On Armistice Day, he made a note of the announcement before carrying on with inspections work in the following days.

War Diary from the papers of J. H. Forshaw – D113/1/2

According to Forshaw’s dispersal certificate, he would leave his Unit on the 11th of July 1919 to return to Ormskirk.

Forshaw’s Dispersal Certificate – D113/1/3

Of course, not all soldiers returned home from fighting, and Remembrance Day is dedicated to those who have served and those who were lost during the First World War and other conflicts. The end of the war appears to have been a time of complicated emotions for many; relief that it had ended but sorrow and grief for those who had been lost.

The January 1919 edition of Cunard Magazine [D42/PR5/23] includes a report of celebrations in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on the announcement of Armistice, but also this reflection of feeling at the end of the war:

The end has come so suddenly that it is hard to realise, all at once, that the unspeakable horror is indeed over. … And now for the first time in four years, brave men are not being killed and maimed by thousands. It gives one a feeling of solemn gladness, that is akin to sorrow.

[D42/PR5/23]

For many, the upcoming festive season would have been coloured with sorrow for those they had lost in the four years since the beginning of the war. This passage from the introduction to the December 1918 Cunard Magazine (D42/PR5/22) is perhaps, then, a fitting way to conclude This week’s war:

For the past four years it has unfortunately been impossible to indulge in our customary felicitations, but with the success of the Allied Arms we are now happily able to revert to our former practice. … It would be idle to attempt to overlook that to many a home the absence of dear ones who have made the supreme sacrifice will cause many a pang of sorrow and regret, but we trust that the kindly hand of time will help to soften the feeling of loss, while keeping ever sweet and fragrant the memory of those who have fallen.

[D42/PR5/22]

The University of Liverpool First World War Memorial, in the entrance hall of the Victoria Museum and Gallery

This Week’s War: 221

Aside

Now “Top Dog”

Pte. L. Rathgen (K.L.R.), Linen Department, in a letter acknowledging his usual parcel says “I, like many more Cunarders am looking forward to the peace which seems so near, and although more heavy fighting is bound to be our lot, I am quite light-hearted as we can now see our aims are about to be realised. During the past few weeks I had many experiences which I cannot write about, but I can say that one had the feeling that you were ‘top dog,’ and the change was appreciated after the somewhat uncertain times recently passed through.”

Extract from Cunard magazine October 1918 issue [D42/PR5/1].

This Week’s War: 217

Aside

Not as Bad as It Might Be

Sergt. H. C. Hiles (Bristol Office), R.F.A. who is serving in the Italian Expeditionary Force writes: “I am spending a cool summer on the mountain tops. It is not such a bad old war as it might be.”

Extract from Cunard magazine September 1918 issue [D42/PR5/1].

Cunard archive: Engineering staff records

At SCA we often receive enquiries from individuals who are researching their family history or are trying to trace an individual who worked for Cunard.

In this post we highlight some of the types of records found within the Cunard archive that relate to the engineering staff who worked for the company, and how researchers can discover this information.

Engineering staff taken at a luncheon on board Mauretania II prior to her breaking up – all of the individuals are named (18 Nov 1965)

As is often the case with business archives, the surviving records are not comprehensive and this is particularly the case for staff records. However, the role of engineer is perhaps the most likely to produce results for a researcher when compared to other roles such as steward or those working in the catering department. This is largely due to ‘D42/EN Engineers Department: Personnel records’ – a unique series of records within the Cunard archive  whose catalogue is available in printed format in our reading room.

These records appear to represent an almost full record of engineering officer staff from 1870, and as such are the most comprehensive staff records of any department within the company. This series of records also includes appointment books of White Star Line engineers prior to the creation of Cunard White Star in 1934. They generally contain information concerning appointments made to particular ships, length of sea service, rate of pay and rank information as well as often noting resignations, retirements and deaths.

Due to the personal nature of these records, some are subject to closure periods and their frequent use as a business record before being transferred to SCA also means that many of these volumes are fragile. Advance appointments to view these records help researchers get the most from their visit and ensures the long-term preservation of the records.

 

‘Cunard Careers at Sea’ (D42/PR4/46/56)

The personnel records of the engineering department can be complimented by ‘Captains Reports on Officers’ 1910-1922 (ref. D42/GM14/1-3) which were compiled by the General Manager’s Office. Other individual records which help provide biographical information of engineering officers can be found in the form of news clippings, press releases and notes (ref. D42/PR4/43/1).

Further potential sources of information can be found within passenger lists which in some cases record the names of senior staff, including that of the Chief Engineer. The photograph collection within the Public Relations series also contains a few examples of named individuals, with engineering staff appearing in both individual portraits and group photographs.

D42/PL12/1/3/14

All of the catalogues for the Cunard archive are available in printed format in our reading room. Further information about the archive and links to the catalogues that are searchable online can be found on our webpage, along with an information sheet about tracing crew.

This Week’s War: 213

Aside

D.S.C. for Cunard Apprentice

It is interesting to record that one of the Cunard apprentices, F. W. Hartley, who left the Company to join the Navy in 1917, has been awarded the D.S.C. for conspicuous bravery while in action with enemy submarines.

Extract from Cunard magazine August 1918 issue [D42/PR5/1].

This Week’s War: 210

Aside

‘I haven’t much to write about here. Wars and rumours of coming Wars, and I am busy putting in some very hard training with my little Squadron. Men are very keen – horses on the thin side but hard, and all is running well.’

Letter from Denis Bates to Percy Bates, dated 5th August 1918 [D641/3/4/13].

This Week’s War: 208

Aside

Active Service Letter Bag

Pte. J. H. Cliffe (Accountants), Labour Company, assures us that “everything out here is going on nicely in spite of old Fritz. For some little time we have been in a backward area, and have had an opportunity to see a little bit more of the Belgian civilians and their ways. Their method of churning milk, the contrivance being worked by a dog is very interesting. It is something after the style of a treadmill, the dog working inside the wheel.”

Extract from Cunard magazine, July1918 issue [D42/PR5/1].

Cunard ‘Old’ and ‘New’

On Monday 23rd July visitors to Liverpool’s waterfront will have the opportunity to see Cunard’s youngest ship, Queen Elizabeth as she makes her seventh visit to the city. This particular visit will celebrate an historic date for the company, that of the 80th anniversary of the launch of the Mauretania II, one of Cunard’s most famous ships. The occasion is being marked with a “sail away show” that will take place at Princes Dock at 16.30.

Constructed at Cammell Laird’s shipyard in Birkenhead, the Mauretania II was the largest ship ever to be constructed in an English shipyard at the time. Huge crowds of tens of thousands of people came to see the launch which was carried out on 28th July 1938 by Lady Bates, wife of the Cunard chairman Percy Bates.

Mauretania II launch at Cammell Laird, Birkenhead (D42/PR1/14/147)

The Mauretania II made its maiden voyage from Liverpool to New York on 17th June 1939 but was soon hired by the government for use in the war effort. During the early stages of the war the ship transported Australian troops to Suez, India and Singapore but later it mainly served in the north Atlantic. After the war the Mauretania II served on the Southampton to New York route but it was also used as a cruise ship to destinations such as the West Indies.

1953 brochure advertising cruises on the Mauretania II (D42/PR4/17/1/7/1)

The Cunard Archive contains many records relating to the history of Mauretania II which can be found within the Accounts Department, Chairman’s Papers, General Manager’s Office and Public Relations files. There are also records within the Cunard Associated Deposits, a collection of records donated by members of the public. Further information about the Cunard Archive can be found on our website.

This Week’s War: 203

Aside

‘Things are much as they were, the Hun is preparing another blow in France and has already struck in Italy. I think he is failing there.’

Personal diary of Percy Bates, entry dated 19th June 1918 [D641/2/1/5].

This Week’s War: 200

Aside

‘By the way one item will amuse you, five large wooden cases turned up the other day for an officer in our regiment. “Looks like drink” says one. So we all sit round hoping it’s Beer. First case is opened and is found to contain four dozen of “Malvern” water. – Oh well at any rate now we’ll have a Whiskey and Soda. A bottle is opened but Malvern water is apparently aqua pura – unfizzy – plan H20!!!!’

Letter from Denis H. Bates to Sir Percy Bates sent from Cairo, dated 25th May 1918 [D641/3/4/13].