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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A game with Johnny Turk

A Sunningdale man was fighting in Turkish-ruled Palestine.

Bevis Jerome’s letter from Palestine we are reluctantly obliged to condense for we have not space for the whole of it. He writes on April 23.

‘We have made some big moves since I wrote last to you, and have been through some heavy fighting, but I am glad to say I have come through it safely so far. We started off for the first push from Beulah and the first place we went through was Beersheba. I expected to find a town, but it had only a few nice buildings and mostly mud huts. We then went up into the Judean hills and came up with the Turks again. They were holding some very strong positions and just behind them were some wells that we wanted to get.

Well it took us four days to drive them from the hills and I can tell you we were jolly glad when they were on the run again for we had had just about enough of it. Then we had a short rest while the mounted troops chased till they were held up and of course we had to go in again.

We have had some very long marches and it was wonderful how they managed to get our rations up and the guns along for it is a very bad country. After a time we came to Solomon’s wells outside Bethlehem. The Turks were holding some strong positions but soon had to give way. The weather at this time was very bad as the wet season had started and we had only thin drill suits.

We had a very rough Christmas as we were in the lines and it rained hard all day and it was February before our mails arrived, still better late than never. Our boys had a game with Johnny Turk a few days before Christmas. It was an early morning stunt and I do not know who were more surprised, our lads or the Turks, for they were at each other before they knew it, and some of the Turks were still under their blankets, you may guess it did not take long to hustle them out. We got over 100 prisoners and 3 machine guns. Not a bad Christmas bow.

I have been to Jericho and do not think many of us want to go there again. The weather is a treat now and we are in the line at a pretty part of the country. I am enclosing a photo of the Hill of Temptation just outside Jericho which I bought at the Monastery that you can see about half way up. It is a wonderful place and built right into the mountain. It is the hill where Our Lord was tempted by Satan.

Again thanking you for the nice parcel,

I remain yours respectfully,

Pte. B. Jerome.’

Sunningdale Parish magazine, July 1918 (D/P150B/28A/10)

Tanks break the Hindenburg Line

Personal tragedy was alleviated by the success of the British forces.

21 November 1917

Henry at committees all day Maidenhead, so motor brought back Dottie & took her to the station. She spent the day with me. We talked & worked.

I have undertaken 2 pr socks & 2 mufflers a week for France.

Heard Willie Parker missing, fear killed. It’s awful!

Brilliant success of our Western Front. “Byng”, tanks & cavalry – broken Hindenburg line. Great surprise to enemy – nearly to Cambrai.

Diary of Florence Vansittart Neale of Bisham Abbey (D/EX73/3/17/8)

Exempt from military service

William Bilson Blackall of Cane End, Reading, was a farrier who during the war was supplying horseshoes to the army for cavalry horses. He was over military age, but his son and assistant was not, and had been wrongly called up. This letter was sent to him:

Horse Shoe Depot
1 Ashby Road
Brockley
London, SE
13/Jun 1916

Please note that men who hold War Service Badges are exempt from military service, & no Tribunal has power to deal with them. You should therefore withdraw your appeal from the Tribunal & inform the Recruiting Officer that the man E W Blackall is badged. He will not then receive a notice to join the colours. Should he however receive a notice it should be sent on to us. In cases where employers make shoes they should be included on Register. will you please complete form & return same to us as soon as possible.

Endorsed in pencil by William:

Gentlemen – noted.

I enclose the notice to join the colours which E W Blackall has received.

Particulars regarding myself have now been entered on the Register.

Yours faithfully
W B Blackall

Letter to William Blackall (D/EX1485/1/25)

A ghastly pantomime

John Maxwell Image wrote to his friend W F Smith with news of a visit from a distinguished former pupil; reactions to a threatened air raid; and a book he had read by ‘Ian Hay’ (the pseudonym of a serving officer).

29 Barton Road, [Cambridge]
3 April ‘16
My most dear old man

That was a tumultuous week just passed. Tuesday’s blizzard came on in an undreamed of fury. We were delightedly entertaining an old pupil – now CE and General Commanding a Brigade of Cavalry, who passing thro’ C[ambridge] on the day previous, had learnt my marriage, and came off at once with his congratulations and the remembrances he was charged with by his brother – another pupil and now Colonel of an Infantry Battalion and DSO. It was a happy meeting. Florence apologised for having to put his teacup in a writing table in our tiny drawing room, because we had not yet set up one of those cunning nests of teatables. Next day arrived a beauty from him, begging we would accept it as a belated wedding present. A day later, and he was ordered away again: but the flying call was such a delicious whiff out of the early past.

I never saw such blinding snow before, and oh the prostrate treeboles next day – like spillikins on the grass. I counted 50 khakis labouring on their trunks in our paddocks, and at least as many in St John’s…

On Friday evening I was finishing a letter when suddenly the electric light went down, then rose, then sank – three times altogether, and left us with the faintest glimmer, just shewing enough that someone else was in the room. The official C. warning of Zepps. We packed the servants in snug armchairs by the kitchen fire: and ourselves went out into Barton Rd, where were sundry residents, chattering under the stars, – and a Trinity friend of mine in khaki, stopping all cyclists and compelling them to put out their lights. The sharp military “Halt” in the dark made at least one fellow tumble off his bike in terror! People said they heard bombs. I heard nothing, not even the drone of a Zeppelin – though one or more did pass over C – but innocuous. The Berlin news claims, I see, C among its victims.

Yesterday, at 11 pm, I was pulling off my trousers for bed, when down once more went the ghastly pantomime of the lowered lights and I had to rouse those integuments and go forth to see what was to be seen. On both nights the lights were kept down till 4 am. This morning the sudden raised flash woke me up from the sweetest slumber.

I hear from our carpenter that much damage has been done at Woolwich, where he has a couple of sons. Not a hint of this is suffered to appear in the Press….

“In Germany the devil’s forge at Essen was roaring night and day: in Great Britain Trades Union bosses were carefully adjusting the respective claims of patriotism and personal dignity before taking their coats off.

Out here we are reasonable men, and we realise that it requires some time to devise a system for supplying munitions which shall hurt the feelings of no pacifist, which shall interfere with no man’s holiday or glass of beer, which shall insult no honest toiler by compelling him to work side by side with those who are not of his industrial tabernacle, and which shall imperil no statesman’s seat in parliament.”

Read “The First Hundred Thousand” by Ian Hay (of Joh.[St John’s College]. I Hay (I forget his patronymic) is at the Front and describes the training and subsequent war experiences of a Kitchener’s Battalion so graphically that I have never seen it better done.

Letter from John Maxwell Image to W F Smith (D/EX801/2)

No peace or victory till the politicians have been exterminated

Maysie Wynne Finch wrote from Wales, where she and her wounded husband had taken refuge at his family home, to her brother Ralph Glyn. She was not impressed by British politicians, or by men trying to avoid service.

Sunday 28 Nov/15
Voelas
Bettws-y-Coed
N. Wales
My dear darling R.

No, I had not seen anything about attacks on Col Sykes – How scheming. All lies I am sure. Oh dear, these politicians, will they never be stamped out & exterminated, we shall have no peace or hope of victory till they are. How people can give presents to Miss Asquith & make it an occasion to tell lies about olf Asquith – God knows – & people like the Speaker too….

Col Toby Wickham … has been recalled from France & is waiting to hear what if anything he’s to do next. All his Yeomanry have been broken up into Div. Cav. & he’s been PM of Ypres for the last month. He’s miserable being home.

What a delightful couple the Harlechs are. She’s enchanting. He was busy trying to get recruits for Welsh Guards, of which he’s Colonel… Billy Gore is off any day, with his Yeomanry Brigade. They go east – where no one knows of course. They have been waiting to start over 10 days now….

John is having a rare lot of “shooting at something which can’t shoot back” as someone put it. At first it hurt his jaw rather, but now it doesn’t seem to often. His back hasn’t healed up even now. I had no idea it would take so long. Of course at the hospital they said it was one of the dirtiest little holes they’d seen. It only missed his spine by a nick too, you know! I expect you’ve heard the story but it was new to me, of the Sergeant to a frightened private under fire, “Now then my man, what’s the matter with you, they ain’t h’after you – you ain’t no blooming cathedral or bloody work of h’art”!! I love it.

Best love darling…
Your own loving Maysie

At last the brave yokels in this district are enlisting having made sure they must go or be fetched! They all try ASC of course!!

Letter from Maysie Wynne Finch to Ralph Glyn (D/EGL/C2/2)

Make the Wargrave Roll of Honour perfect

Many parishes regularly published a Roll of Honour of those serving. One of these was Wargrave, and July saw the publication of Part 2 of their list:

The Roll of Honour for The Parish of Wargrave

Luker, Ernest, VIII Hussars
F Mance, Robert. Army Services Corps.
F Milford, John. R.F.A.
F Morse, George. Royal Berks Regt.
F Nicholl, Charles. Major. Oxfordshire Hussars.
Nicholl, Kenneth. Capt. Welsh Fusiliers
F Nicholls, Albert. Royal Berks Regt
Noble, Eric Heatley. 2nd Lieut. Grenadier Guards
Noble, Norris Heatley. 2nd Lieut. Kings Royal Rifles
F Ogbourne, Harry. 1st Life Guards.
F Over, Reginald. Lce-Corp. Ox and Bucks Light Infy
Parritt, William John. Lce-Corp R.E.
Paget, Colin. Wiltshire Territorials
F Perry, George Edwin. Scotch Greys
Piggott, George. Ox and Bucks Light Infy
Pithers, James. VIII Royal Berks Regt
Plested, Herbert. Royal Berks Regt
Plested, Albert. Royal Berks Regt
Plowman, Thomas Austen. Berks Yeomanry
Porter, Albert E. Army Service Corps
F Pugh, Ernest. Royal Berks Regt
Rhodes, John Edward. Lt-Col. Princess Beatrice’s Isle of Wight Rifles
Rhodes, Wilfred. Major. Provost Marshal on Staff
F Rhodes, Victor. Capt. Late Sherwood Foresters
Remnant, John. Lieut. Royal Berks Regt
Rayner, John. 2nd Lieut. Royal Berks Regt
Reid, George William. Royal Berks Regt
Richardson, Fred. Berks Yeomanry
Rideout, Henry Randall. Expeditionary Force’s Canteen
Rixon, Charles. Royal Berks Regt
F Rixon, Walter. Royal Berks Regt
Rufey, William. Royal Berks Regt
F Shepherd, Henry. Capt. IX C of London Regt
F Schuster, Leonard Francis. Lieut. 3rd County of London Yeomanry
Sinclair, Gerald John. 2nd Lieut. Black Watch
Sanson, Gordon Ralph. Hon. Artillery Co.
F Sharp, Ernest Gladstine. VIII Dragoon Guards
Sharp, Samuel. Lee-Corp. Welsh Fusiliers
F Sharp, William. Army Service Corps
Shaw, George. Royal Berks Regt
F Shersby, Edward. Ox and Bucks Light Infy
Sherwood, Fred. Royal Berks Regt
Silver, Frank. Army Services Corps
Silver, Harry. R.F.A.
F Silvey, Stephen. R.A.M.C.
Slatter, T. Ox and Bucks Light Infy
Slattery, Udolph Wolfe. 2nd Lieut. IX West Kent Regt
Smith, George Frederick. Veterinary Corps
Stanbridge, Albert. Irish Fusiliers
F Stone, Samuel Philip. Ox and Bucks Light Infy
F Swanborough, Alfred. Army Services Corps
F Symons-Jeune, Bertram. Lieut. Army Service Corps
Talbot, Arthur. Corpl. IInd Royal Berks Regt
F Talbot, Anthony George. XCIIth Lancers
F Talbot, Albert. Army Services Corps
Tigwell, Monty. Royal Berks Regt
F Watson, Burton. Major. 107th Pioneers, Indian Army
F Watson, Cyril. Captain. Middlesex Husaars
Walsh, Gordon Herbert. Lieut. Royal Sussex Regt
Wakefield, Caleb. Ox and Bucks Light Infy
Wakefield, Cecil. Royal Berks Regt
F Warby, Albert H. XIIth Lancers
F Webb, George. Rifle Brigade
Weller, David. R.F.A.
Woodruff, Charles Herbert. Xth Regt Cavelry

Warren Row In the Parish of Knowl Hill

(more…)

“Moderate” peace terms would allow an unweakened Germany “to begin afresh the utter destruction of England”

John Maxwell Image continued his letter from yesterday with more details of the war’s impact in Cambridge. he was unimpressed by pacifists’ suggestions of a generous peace treaty.

Thursday [18 March 1915], 11.30 am

Yesterday I sauntered as far as 2nd stone on the Barton Road – troops of cavalry or infantry on every road now! …

We are in the military gripe altogether. Officers are billeted in your College and in others. Whewells Courts hold privates by the hundreds: who believe the building to be a Board School! Their officers are in Caius new Court lining Rose Crescent – and the General in Caius proper (I haven’t set eyes on him).

King’s entertains the female Nurses. I see them … “swanking” down King’s Avenue and opening the garden Gate to pass to their labours in “the 1st Eastern Hospital”.

At the last Union debate — moved that “this House would welcome an offer by the Allies of moderate Terms of Peace”. He was good enough to explain these. “Moderate Terms exclude the hanging, shooting, or deportation of the German Emperor, the dismemberment of Germany and the interference from outside with the internal German Constitution. The handing over of the German fleet and the payment of an indemnity to the allies except Belgium, and the retention of the German colonies conquered by England would be excluded.” He wishes her to be left, practically unweakened, and with yet more unvenomed hatred, to begin afresh the utter destruction of England, having chosen a time when she is bereft of allies.

Is he merely a “superior person”?

And “the House adjourned without a division”!!

The Fellows of Trinity, who are of military age, nearly all are wearing khaki – Capstick, Cornford, Lucas, Stuart, Tatham, Littlewood, Holland, Robertson, Taylor, Hill, Woolf, Nicholas, Butler, Bragg, etc, etc.

I see the armed sentry at Whewell’s gate standing statuesque, growing gradually whitened with falling snow….

“Numbers only can annihilate”. That Nelsonian maxim is steadily carried out by Fisher, and, as the Dresden, the Falkland Isles, the Bluecher and her gang evince, it means an almost bloodless success to the crushers. What on earth did they risk the flimsy Amethyst in the narrows for?

There is a white cat overhead which has taken a huge fancy to me. It is mutual. Tell the Missis that she presented the staircase with two absolute little snowy angels two days ago. I was taken to admire them just 3 hours after their first appearance. Anything so tiny I should not have deemed possible. A rat’s litter must be bigger. Mary Ann was very affectionate – insisted on licking my hands and purring loudly as I hauled up the prodigies for inspection. She herself (they tell me) was scarcely bigger than her offspring last September. The owner, a young 2nd Lieut. Of Engineers, brought the basket down to my rooms for goodbye that evening: and yesterday at 8 am they all left for Devonshire.

Did you see that Keith Caldwell is wounded? I wrote to poor Mrs Hutchinson, but have received no reply. I hope this doesn’t imply a serious hurt.

Love to both.

Affettuosamenta

Bild [nickname]

Always keep me posted as to any Censorial interference.

Letter from John Maxwell Image, Cambridge don, to W F Smith (D/EX801/1)

News rather more hopeful

Florence Vansittart Neale was a little more positive about the war news today.

8 October 1914
News rather more hopeful. Antwerp bombardment begun. All English sent away. German cavalry getting very north. Hope Charlie left Hazebruck.

Diary of Florence Vansittart Neale (D/EX73/3/17/8)