The final downfall of German militarism: the most epoch-making moment of the year nineteen hundred and nineteen

A woman who grew up in Windsor was present at the celebrations after the signing of the treaty which brought a formal end to the war.

The Peace of Versailles

Probably the most epoch-making moment of the year nineteen hundred and nineteen was that marked by Hermann Muller signing the Treaty of Peace in the name of the German Republic. We did not see that signature affixed. We reached the palace of Versailles as the first gun fired its signal to the waiting crowds. In fact, we were late, for motor cars had been sorely taxed, and we had come with a relay. But the rush in this car from the Arc-de-Triomphe in Paris to Versailles was full of vivid impressions.

Our route lay through the woods of Boulogne-sur-Seine and St Cloud, then in the full flush of their summer glory and lit by a warm sun. The road all the way was kept by French soldiers posted every hundred yards, and at every bend, and as our car dashed furiously along the clear road, people looked at us so curiously, that we felt we must be taken for late arrivals, who hoped at least to defer and perhaps to annul the Treaty.

At last we swung into the long straight avenue leading up to the Palace gates. On either side, dense lines of cavalry – chestnut mounts, azure blue uniforms and helmets overtopped with gleaming lances and red and white pennons, al in perfect alignment. As our late car approached, the whole formation, till then “at ease”, sprang to attention, and we felt we were very fraudulent, and quite undeserving of such salutes. We got out quickly, and as we reached the terrace beyond the Palace, the first gun told us that peace had been signed. The followed a great scene in a great setting: the long park front of the Bourbon’s home, the wide formal gardens of the terrace, the great fountains which play so seldom, and all of these were bathed in sunshine. The Republican Guard were much in evidence, the infantry in dark blue, with befeathered kepis, while the sun was reflected from the dazzling rows of the cuirassiers.

Whilst the German delegates were departing there was silence, but when the “Big Four” appeared, the assembled company on the terrace could restrain itself no longer, and their reception was immense, while the leading representatives of France and England, on making their way to the far edge of the terrace, were well-night carried off their feet by the crowd. The view which these leaders of the Congress had when they eventually reached their goal was unique – in the foreground, the steep slope of the formal gardens, then the high boundary rail, behind it and with the superb avenue and lake for background, the Parisian in his thousands, and with his wife and family all densely packed and cheering.

This was the picture which we left by a side entrance, to seek contrast in the solitude of the great park of Versailles, and there, buried in silent glades, or roaming amidst the artificial rusticity of the “hamlet” it was easy to see again as in a Watteau picture, the senseless but harmless frolics of the Court of Louis XV. Here we were free to muse upon the epochs of history which have had their opening and closing scenes in these surroundings. The revolutionary oath taken in the Tennis Court beyond the palace spelt doom to the regime of artificial shepherds and shepherdesses and all that they implied; from this a span of eighty-two years saw, in the Palais de Glace, the triumph of German militarism, and this day June 28th, 1919, after a further lapse of forty-eight years, had seen its downfall.

An Old Girl.


Clewer: St Stephen’s High School Magazine, 1920 (D/EX1675/6/2/2)

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