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: 223

Aside

‘It is now given out as official that the armistice has been signed; and by the paper we see that the Kaiser has abdicated. These are great happenings, and though peace has yet to be declared we may safely regard them as marking the actual end of the war.’

Entry dated November 11th 1918, War Diary 1917 – 1919, by Aleyn Lyell Reade [ALR. A. 1. 2].

This Week’s War: 222

Aside

‘Convoy proceeded (in couples) to Reims. All did sightseeing, I with Pim, Sparrow, Harry. The Cathedral of course. Hilarious champagne supper. Sparrow, Rees, Goodall and I occupied a house.’

Diary of Olaf Stapledon, entry dated Saturday 2 November 1918 [OS/A1/20].

 

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: 220

Aside

“Letter from R.R.R. that he had been awarded bar and the M. C.” [Military Cross].

Entry from the diary of Emily Evelyn and Hugh Reynolds Rathbone dated 20th October, 1918 [RP XVA.3.172].

This Week’s War: 219

Aside

‘The war news is excellent now, and we can do more than see light through the tunnel at last. I am only afraid that the foolish people who abound everywhere in public as in private life will be tempted into too premature a discussion of peace terms. It is quite evident that the Hun now feels the hopelessness of his position, so it behoves us to wire into him with redoubled fury and finish the job thoroughly, once and for all.’

Entry dated October 9th 1918, War Diary 1917 – 1919, by Aleyn Lyell Reade [ALR. A. 1. 2].

This Week’s War: 218

Aside

‘Bulgaria unconditionally surrenders. Allied forces on Western Front still making great headway.’

Entry dated Tuesday October 1 1918, diary of John Bruce Glasier [GP/2/1/25].

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].

This Week’s War: 216

Aside

‘Longuet[?] in impassioned speech declares France is in danger of extinction. Already 1,700,000 killed and 800,000 maimed.’

Entry dated Friday September 20 1918, diary of John Bruce Glasier [GP/2/1/25].

This Week’s War: 215

Aside

‘We beg to point out that if the extra accommodation requisitioned by the War Office is granted it will put us to considerable inconvenience […] The present temporary Laboratory and curtailed filling room are barely sufficient to meet the demands now made upon them and in view of the increase in the entry of Dental Students, we must have some room for expansion.’

Letter dated September 11th 1918, from W. H. Gilmour to the War Office regarding use of the Dental Hospital [A306/2/8].