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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“We are truly sorry to lose from our midst one from whom we expected much in coming days”

After all the dangers of war it was illness which felled one returning soldier.

CONDOLENCE

We much regret to have to record the death of Mr Frank W. Snell of 22 Eldon Road. Our friend had not long been demobilised. He was on active service for a considerable time in France, and was seriously wounded in the head and face. There can be no doubt whatever that the brief illness to which he succumbed was due to this cause. We are truly sorry to lose from our midst one from whom we expected much in coming days, and we tender our sincerest sympathy to his parents, and the other members of his family, in their sore bereavement.

Reading Broad Street Congregational Magazine, June 1919 (D/N11/12/1/14)

“War is dreadful, but Peace is terrible”

An army doctor was a leader in the temperance movement.

An Open-Air Meeting in connection with the St Luke’s Branch of the CETS was held in the Vicarage Garden, on Tuesday evening, June 10th, under the Presidency of the Rev. T H Thurland, the Vicar being away on holiday. The Chief Speaker was Dr Harford, General Secretary of the CETS, who first distributed the certificates, etc, won by the Band of Hope members, the handsome Challenge Banner for the Maidenhead Band of Hope competition having been won by North Town.

Dr Harford, in his address, spoke chiefly to interest the large number of juveniles present. He told them of his service for nearly four years as an eye specialist in France, and related many incidents and told of the scenes of destruction and military activities. He next quoted the remark of M. Clemenceau, French Prime Minister, that “War is dreadful, but Peace is terrible”. This meant that when at war we had got but one thing to do – to see we got it through; but in Peace everybody began to fight everybody else we had first to make a good Peace, not only in Paris, but also at home. He urged the young people to do all they could to fight against the evils caused by drink, one of the greatest curses of our land. The Doctor related an interview with the Archbishop of Canterbury relative to the coming big campaign of the CETS, the “Merrie England” Movement, in which the Society would send cinemas and lecturers around the country to give an impetus to better housing and or enlightened action as to food, health and thrift. The Society was anxious that everybody should have happy homes – not only good, decent houses, but real happy homes. As to cooking, the Doctor had a severe shock when, on asking a little boy if he liked nice puddings, and taking for granted the inevitable “Yes”, the little boy frankly replied “No, sir!” The Doctor’s point was that if the wives would only give their husbands plenty of sweet puddings, the men would not care for so much beer, in which they found the sugary element. In the new homes of Merrie England the children must be taught to play games.

Dr Harford later told some experiences as a missionary for many years in West Africa, where he was nearly eaten by cannibals. An effort was being made to suppress the use of gin out there, this spirit being the buying and selling “coinage” of the country. – (Laughter). As part of the “Merrie England” Movement, every parish was being asked to arrange a little pageant play already published as part of the local Peace celebrations; and he hoped the Maidenhead CETS would carry this out.

Reprinted from The Maidenhead Advertiser.

Maidenhead St Luke parish magazine, July 1919 (D/P181/28A/28)

About to return

A schoolboy got an early finish to see his soldier dad.

May 26th 1919

William Newell was allowed to leave school before the close of the afternoon session by request of his father, a soldier from France, about to return.

Bradfield CE School log book (D/P22/28/2, p. 222)

Another opportunity of setting foot on English soil

A soldier celebrated Empire Day with his wedding to an old friend.

MARRIAGE

On Saturday, May 24th, two of our old Sunday Scholars were married in our Church by the Pastor. We refer to Mr R B (“Dick”) Wilkins and Miss Rosina Blake. The bridegroom has been for some years away from Tilehurst, having been in residence in Canada, but on the outbreak of war he joined the Canadian Expeditionary Force, and in the course of his career as a soldier he gained another opportunity of setting foot on English soil.

By a curious coincidence it was “Empire Day” when he enlisted, “Empire Day” again when he first crossed to France, and yet again “Empire Day” when he entered upon married life. The wedding was quite a simple ceremony, marked by earnestness and sincerity, and the large congregation was ample evidence to the young couple of the good wishes which they were receiving from many friends.

We trust that the demands of military service will soon cease in Mr Wilkins’s case, and that he and his wife will be able to settle happily in their far off home across the seas. They know we all wish them the very best…

Tilehurst section of Reading Broad Street Congregational Magazine, July 1919 (D/N11/12/1/14)

RIP

Another Newbury man was reported dead retrospectively.

ROLL OF HONOUR
102. Driver Rupert Ferris, 1st Tanks Co., died of wounds, Maricana, France, March 24th, 1918. RIP.

Newbury parish magazine, May 1919 (D/P89/28A/14)

Now going to Russia

More soldiers shared their experiences back home.

May 2nd
Visit of Fred Dore and Reg. Claridge, two old boys who have seen service in Flanders, France, Italy, and are now going to Russia.

St Mary’s CE School, Speenhamland (C/EL119/3)

In memory of two sons

The two Sulhamstead parish churches each received a gift in memeory of a fallen soldier.

The Vestry Meetings were held at the Schools on Tuesday, April 22nd. The Rector presided.

Sulhamstead Abbots:

… The Rector stated that Mr G Leake desired to insert a window in the chancel of St Mary’s Church in memory of his son, Lieutenant George Leake (acting captain), DSO, from the design originally made with the corresponding three. The Vestry gave authority for this being erected …

Sulhamstead Bannister:

… The Rector reported that Mrs Tyser was presenting the church with an organ in memory of her son, Major George Beaumont Tyser, East Lancashire Regiment, who was killed in France on July 6th, 1916. He was authorized to obtain a faculty if such were required, and was directed to convey to Mrs Tyser the thanks of the Vestry for her munificent gift.

Sulhamstead parish magazine, July 1919 (D/EX725/4)

Sympathy for Mr Slade

A Burghfield man survived the war, only to encounter unexpected tragedy at home.

Much sympathy is felt for Mr J Slade on the death of his good wife after a very short illness. Mr Slade, who joined up in September, 1915, has seen service at the Dardanelles and in France, and was only discharged in January last.

Burghfield parish magazine, April 1919 (D/EX725/4)

War was always unspeakably dreadful

A pupil at St Barthomolomew’s School imagined a future where war was unknown. It may be a creative writing exercise, but it shows the effect the war had on young people’s views of the world.

WAR.

Scene ——————– A room in a house
Time ——————— 2000 A.D.
Dramatis Personae — One sister, one small brother.

Small brother. Sissy, what does war mean? I read it in a book, something about the termination of war or something.

Sister. War, dear child, is the settlement of national quarrels by fighting.

When two or more nations had a quarrel, they used to fight each other till so many people on one side got killed or driven back, that they had to give in.

Sometimes nations just made war for greed because they thought they were stronger than their opponents, indeed this was nearly always the case.

Small brother. Please, what’s reponents?

Sister. Opponents, I said, it means enemies.

Small brother. O yes, I understand enemies; please sissy, why didn’t you say enemies if you meant enemies?

Sister. When you’re a little older, you’ll understand perhaps, but don’t fidget or I shall have to send you upstairs.

Small brother. Go on about war, sissy.

Sister. In the beginning war wasn’t quite so bad, although morally, of course, it was always unspeakably dreadful.

People used to fight hand to hand, and kill each other from quite near, with spears, long steel spikes and other weapons, then later, they shot with bows and arrows, you’ve heard of bows and arrows.

Well, everybody regarded it as a sort of game, with definite rules, particularly we English, who were always slow and stupid.

Small brother. Sissy!!

Sister.
Now don’t interrupt.

Well, people liked fighting very much really, or at any rate some did, they used to put on expensive armour and ride about on beautiful horses, and when there wasn’t a war, they went about saving fair maidens out of enchanted castles, and it was all very nice.

Everything went well, because all the countries used the same weapons, and fought in the same way, but gradually men began to invent more deadly weapons, and some of the countries invented the before their enemies knew anything about it, so of course they said it wasn’t fair and were very cross, and lots of them got killed.

Guns were invented, and other dreadful things, and people fought from a long way off. Nearly everybody fought, and they still had rules like in a game.

Things got worse and worse till the last war, that was about 1914, and then thousands of people got killed, and it was all like a very bad nightmare, men, women and children got killed and aeroplanes dropped bombs about in the town and no one was safe anywhere. After everybody had spent most of their money on the war and lost most of their sons, and had some of their houses knocked down, they got very tired of it, but it had to be finished, because a very wicked country called Germany was threatening the peace of the whole world, not that the whole world really wanted peace, mind you, because they didn’t, but they liked to think they did, and anyhow, they hated the Germans very much, and not without cause.

However, the people who were running the war for England began to see that it wasn’t a game any longer, because they didn’t get enough to each and their sons being killed; so when Germany invented clever things to kill people quicker, which weren’t allowed by the rules, they invented cleverer ones back and said nothing about it, and in the papers the people read all about the wicked things Germany was doing and thought Germany dishonourable for disobeying the rules, and some people say that the English people who were working the war for the English broke the rules first, but this isn’t certain, and anyway, the Germans were a greedy and unscrupulous people, much worse than us, though we were far from perfect, and they were beaten.

And people began to sit down and think a bit, which wasn’t often done in those days, and they came to the conclusion that war wasn’t a game any longer, and that they had better prevent its happening again, so they got together a kind of jury and they called it the League of Nations.

They talked for over a year; some said there must be no more fighting of any kind, and others said that the nature of man couldn’t exist without fighting, so they talked and talked until at last they came to a decision.

They decided to go back to the bow and arrow method, because it looked so nice and wasn’t as dangerous as the other methods, only bows, arrows and armour, were to be used, and directly anybody was wounded he would count as dead, and directly a quarter of the fighters on one side were dead, the other side would have won, and in case of any contravention of the rules, the whole world would punish the offender very severely, and since no country could ever be stronger than all the rest put together, the idea seemed practical and sound.

Well the next fight after the real war was between France and America, it was brought about by a difference of opinion as to whether Paris or New York should lead the fashions in ladies’ hats. It was, of course, a difficult problem, and the League of Nations discussed it for three months, at the end of this time there was a terrible hat strike, and women had to go about bare headed and many of them caught colds and died.

At last the League decided that France and America must figure it out.

The battle was arranged in Hyde Park, London, 100 men from Paris and 100 men from New York were chosen, the battlefield was railed around and people had to pay £20 to watch. The proceeds went to the society for stray cats.

Just before the battle began an Englishman invented an impregnable armour, so he sold the secret for a million pounds to the Paris men, and then got another million from the New York men for telling them, too.

So the first day’s fighting killed no one, and broke a lot of arrows, also it rained hard and the people who had paid £20 to come and watch were very sick about it.

On the second day someone invented an arrow which could pierce the armour, and both sides got hold of the secret, but everyone got to know of it before the battle, so they all wore double armour and again no one got killed, and still it rained, and the fighters sank up to their ankles in mud, because their armour was so heavy, and at the end of the day their friends had to pull them out with ropes.

Now this sort of thing went on for six days; each day better arrows were invented and thicker armour was worn to shield off the arrows, and as a result no one was killed and hundreds of arrows were broken, and still it rained very hard, and all the people who watched got wet and angry, and many died of chills.

And each day, the fighters sank deeper in the mud, because the ground got softer and their armour got heavier.

At last, on the seventh day, which was a Sunday, the situation seemed impossible, because the armed men knew that they couldn’t even get within range of each other; directly they stepped into Hyde Park they would get stuck, and since the rule was that each side should start at opposite ends of the park, it seemed hopeless.

However, a clever Englishman came to the rescue; he constructed two great rafts, and on these the fighters were to row out to the selected spot.

On a given signal they were to step off their rafts and fight as usual.

It cleared up a bit that day and the sun came out, so that heaps of people came to watch in boats and the stray cat’s shares went up seventy-two points.

The Lord Mayor came specially to give the signal for fighting to start.

Directly he blew the whistle the fighters stepped off the rafts, it was calculated by an American that each man weighed seven hundred pounds, anyhow they were never seen again, they sank right down through the each till they reached the centre of gravity and there they presumably remained.

So the question was never settled and everybody bought their hats in London.

Since then there have been no wars.

K.P.L.

The Newburian (magazine of St Bartholomew’s School, Newbury), April 1919 (N/D161/1/9)

The need for collecting eggs for the Wounded Soldiers in the hospitals in England and France has come to an end

Clewer had contributed thousands of eggs to help feed wounded soldiers.

Clewer

The following remarkable Egg Report has been sent for insertion by Miss Durant:-

Now that the need for collecting eggs for the Wounded Soldiers in the hospitals in England and France has come to an end, I should like to express my thanks to all those in Clewer who have so kindly assisted in the good work by giving eggs and money.

Since I commenced collecting in March, 1915, Clewer has contributed 7,890 eggs and £56 11s. 0d. in cash, and I especially wish to thank the children of Clewer Green Schools, who have collected 462 eggs and £49 1s. 9d. towards the result.

M. DOROTHY DURANT,

Collector for Clewer.

Clewer parish magazine, April 1919 (D/P39/28A/9)

On leave from France

Would this soldier have to return now?

4/04/19

Mrs Smith has been absent from school – her husband on leave from France.

Log book of Joseph Henry Wilson School, Newbury (N/ES7/1)

Britain’s great army in “civies” again after their unforgettable experiences

Maidenhead men were coming home.

OUR SOLDIERS.

Britain’s great army, having gloriously accomplished its tremendous task, is being rapidly broken up, and already something like one-half of our men are demobilised. F.W. Harmer, R. R. Hill, J.H. Bolton, Harold Islip, Heorge Belcher, Cecil Meade, C.S. Vardy, C. Catliff, in addition to those who have been previously named, are in “civies” again, and others are shortly expecting their papers. Percy Lewis has been sent home from France, and is for the present doing duty at an Army Hospital in Camberwell. It is a great pleasure to welcome all these friends home again, after their unforgettable experiences.

Maidenhead Congregational magazine, March 1919 (D/N33/12/1/5)

“Those who have fought for the victory we have obtained have reason to expect better civil life”

A Reading book club discussed social changes to be expected.

7 March 1919

The 298th meeting of the club was held at Soundy’s on Friday 7th March 1919…

The host had followed the old practice of the club (unfortunately too frequently not observed of late) & had prepared a paper. His subject was “Some Labour Problems”, & he commenced by referring to the two International Conferences now taking place in Paris, viz the Peace Conference & the International Labour Conference. The former has spent considerable time in discussing the formation of a League of Nations with a view to securing the Peace of the world so far as warfare is concerned, but Soundy pointed out that there is another Peace that is possibly even more to be desired & one that will have more important influence on the future of the nations, viz Peace in the Labour world, & this is being discussed at the International Labour Conference.

After referring to the cost of the war & to the question of the nations recovering from its effect, both financial & industrial, he stated that this can be done solely by securing peace and cooperation between the parties representing capital & labour. Relations between employers & employed must be improved. Germany has found out that might is not right & the same principle must be brought to the front in the labour market.

To re-establish our own financial position exports must be increased, & to achieve this, the rate of production must be increased. So long as this is done & is kept up the rate of increase in wages does not matter. He referred to the conditions of labour to apply in the future, which are being discussed at the Conference, & also to the evidence given by the Coal Commission in this country. Where the highest wages have been paid the cost of production has been lowest & vice versa. No man will do his best, when he feels he is underpaid, but workpeople must realise that to get better conditions they must become better workmen, & Trade Unions must make their members realise this.

Those who have fought for the victory we have obtained have reason to expect better civil life & to achieve this there must be a better understanding between employers & workpeople, & an effective peace between capital & labour.

An interesting discussion followed & it was unanimously felt that the thanks of the Club were due to the host for his most interesting paper & for having once again kept up the old traditions of the Club.

Dodeka Book Club minutes (D/EX2160/1/3)

The return to Windsor, from the war, of the Coldstream Guards

Aston Tirrold
28th February 1919

There is much sickness (colds and influenza) in the school and for the week our percentage of attendance is only 60.

Windsor
1919
Feb: 28th

The Mayor visited on Thursday morning and gave the girls a holiday in the afternoon, because of the return to Windsor, from the war, of the Coldstream Guards.

East Hagbourne
Feby 28th

Mrs Marshall (S), whose husband is home on leave from France, is still absent.

Newbury
28/2/19

Student teacher Whitehorn has been absent from school this week owing to influenza

Earley
28 February 1919

Mrs Plumer, whose husband has just returned from India, & who is now in a Military Hospital in London, has been absent from her duties all this week.

Log books of Aston Tirrold CE School (C/EL105/1); Holy Trinity Infants School, Windsor (C/EL58/2); East Hagbourne School (C/EL35/2); Joseph Henry Wilson School, Newbury (N/ES7/1);
St Peter’s CE School, Earley (SCH36/8/3)