Medals commemorating ‘peace’ and a portrait of Nurse Cavell

Edith Cavell was a British nurse based in Belgium, who heled a number of British and other soldiers to escape and was shot dead by the German occupying force. She is remembered for her words, “Patriotism is not enough. I must have no hatred or bitterness towards anyone.”

Wallingford Boys Council School
1919, 15 September

A portrait of Nurse Cavell, purchased by the boys, hung in the hall today.

Windsor Royal Free Boys’ School
15th September 1919

The whole of the boys attended the Town Hall this morning to receive medals commemorating ‘peace’.

Log books of Wallingford Boys Council School log book (SCH22/8/3, p. 76); and Windsor Royal Free Boys’ School (C/EL72/3, p. 214)

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“Our village is still like a battlefield”

The August issue of a Reading church magazine had news from a family of Belgian refugees who had now returned home.

Our Belgian Guests

Though we have now bidden good-bye to our Belgian family, they are not forgotten, and we gladly avail ourselves of Miss Hammond’s kind permission to print the following letter, (long held over through lack of space) telling of the return home.

Kelfs-Herent,
29TH March, 1919.
Dear Miss Hammond,

We reached home a fortnight ago, on the 15th of March, at half-past four in the afternoon. We found our house quite empty, for the Germans had stolen most of our things, and what they left others took. The doors and windows are broken, the walls both inside and out are damaged, and there is a large hole in the roof. The Germans did their cooking everywhere, leaving the house so dirty that it has taken me ten days to get it even a little clean! We must wait till next year for fresh wall-paper, it is still too dear.

Food is very scarce; there is hardly anything in the shops and everything is much dearer than in England. Meat costs 9-10 francs the Kilo, butter 15 franks, margarine 8.5 franks. A sack of flour costs 110 franks, and one cannot even then always get it. Every day we say that war for existence is now beginning, and happy are the people who live in the promised land of England or France. Our village is still like a battlefield; some of the houses have been re-built but not all. The people living next to us have so aged during these four years that we did not recognise them. We have no cow or horse, and they are so dear that we must wait a while before buying.

I hope that you will give our compliments to all the kind friends at your church, and thank them again for all they did for us during the four years of war.

Please accept the sincere respects of your grateful family.”

M. Van De Venne.
Elise De Kruster.

We are very grieved to hear that, since reaching home, our friends have sustained a very heavy loss in the death of their dear little girl, Elisa, on June 3rd, after an illness of three weeks. We shall all join in sympathetic remembrance of the sorrowing father and mother.

Trinity Congregational Magazine, August 1919 (D/EX1237/1/12 )

A rude German hotel manager causes riots

Germans were still not popular.

22 July 1919
H & I started off about 10 o’clock in pouring rain for our 2 days journey to Dovedale. Cleared at Oxford. Lunch at Banbury. Lovely afternoon. Arrived at Coventry 5.30. Found riots going on. Shops barricaded. Not much relieved by hearing our hotel the chief offence – rude German manager. Mob threaten burn it down. Many police… (All quiet that night.)

Diary of Florence Vansittart Neale of Bisham Abbey (D/EX73/3/17/9)

The Germans are still trying to make up their minds

Some feared it was not time to celebrate quite yet.

Peace

At the time of writing peace is not yet signed and the Germans are still trying to make up their minds, but the question of peace celebrations was discussed at a recent meeting of the Parish Council. Several suggestions were made and it was decided to lay proposals before a Parish meeting very shortly, when people will have an opportunity of criticising and amending any scheme brought forward.

Stratfield Mortimer parish magazine, July 1919 (D/P120/28A/14)

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)

The war will not, strictly speaking, have “terminated”, until the peace terms have been duly ratified

The war had still not technically ended, as the treaties had not been signed. But peace celebrations were in full swing.

Peace Celebrations

At a second General Meeting, on 17th June, the recommendation of the Committee that these celebrations should take the form of a Tea, with games, etc, for the children of the parish, was approved. “Children” to include all ages up to 14, and any still attending school over that age. By the time this magazine appears it is hoped that the German Representatives will have signed the Peace Terms. But Austria, Turkey, and Bulgaria remain to be dealt with, and moreover the war will not, strictly speaking, have “terminated”, until the terms have been duly ratified by the proper representative assemblies. No doubt, however, an official Peace Celebration Day will be proclaimed before this has taken place in all the countries concerned.

Meanwhile, as announced at the Meeting, the Military Authorities are arranging central functions for those who have served overseas, and there will be a gathering and entertainment in Reading.

War Memorial

At the same Meeting, further recommendations of the Committee were adopted, viz:

(a) The erection of a Cross in the Churchyard in memory of those who have fallen;

(b) The improvement of the Parish Recreation Grounds, in connection with a Sports Club to be formed.

It was referred to the Committee to raise two separate funds for these two objects (Peace Celebrations and War Memorial), the latter fund to be applied first to the Cross, and secondly to Recreation Grounds, etc.

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

Gratitude for deliverance from the German menace

The War Memorial

The committee met on June 13.

Present: The vicar, the Rev. H B Mead, the two churchwardens, Messrs F B East, W B Waters, H Masters, E Long, G C Sturgess, H B Mole, E Clayton Jones, A H Salman, J A Murray, H Knapman, T R Stevens, F C Edwards, G C Love. Ladies: D A Lawrence, G Fanstone, E Type, N Driscoll, A L Martin, H L Stevens, S Goose, B Newbery. The appointment of Mr Richard Brown and Mr Frank B East as joint treasurers of the fund met with approbation. The newly elected treasurers proceeded to receive the first payments, and a first and most gratifying instalment, in cash and promises, the amount of £407 8s 1d was returned. It was resolved to ask the builder to proceed with the work with as little delay as possible. The committee adjourned to Friday 18 July.

This glorious start, recorded above, may rightly call for a word in these pages. There are hundreds of people round about the church who may like to have a share in this Memorial; and the generosity of the first givers will, we hope, move them to follow their example. As we may have said before, we do not want to beg anyone to give to our memorial porch; we only desire to ask them to decide whether or not they will show their gratitude for deliverance from the German menace in this way. Those who have given, and those who mean to give, know that a considerable sum must be yet obtained if the architect’s fee and builders expenses are to be met. We have a large and determined committee, and they may be relied upon to bring the matter under the notice of the parishioners and worshippers of the church. Outside these there are but a few that can be approached; the amount must be raised amongst ourselves, and we are confident that it will be raised.

Earley St Bartholomew parish magazine, July 1919 (D/P192/28A/15)

The pleasant mudscape

Perhaps a brother’s experiences informed this schoolgirl’s creative writing.

Dialogue Between Two German Owls, or An Elegy written in Flanders

The shrapnel shrieks the knell of parting day;
In Flanders, mud above his gouty knee,
A sapper backwards ploughs his watery way,
To mend the telephone, and have some tea.

Now sinks the pleasant mudscape from the sight,
For, from the air, a sleety drizzle drenches,
Save where a lorrie [sic], with its floundering might,
Takes touzzly [sic] Tommies back towards the trenches.

Save that, on yonder splintered stump,
A German owl doth of her lord enquire,
“What bird is that, who buzzing round our dump,
Usurps our birth-right in this black quagmire?”

“Oft did our faint hearts to those bomb-shells yield,
In burrows hiding, while the crockery broke,
For England drives her aeroplanes afield,
Often to perish, ‘neath our strafing stroke.

Let them not mock what German soil,
And lager beer, and morning hates upbore,
Soon we shall hear, with a disdainful smile
Some long and glorious lies about that corps.

The boast of daring and the pomp of power
All that the British War Office e’er gave,
Await alike the inevitable hour,
A reckless start-off to a German grave.”

Thus spake the German, heedless of the waste
For female ears this eloquence to raise,
And, as with long-drawn screams the shrapnel raced
Around her, she could see no cause for praise.

“Can leaking urn, or animated bust
Back to its mansion drive that floating flock?
Make those propellers churn the silent dust,
Or flatten out upon a cold dull rock?”

The applause of listening generals to command,
And angry threats of martial courts to raise,
To scatter pamphlets o’er a smiling land,
Or works like these their hapless nation pays.”

Haply some hairy headed swine may say,
“Oft have we heard him at the peep of dawn
Blowing with hasty bombs our food away
To beat the Hun upon the upland lawn.”

Then sank her head upon the lap of earth,
An owl, to fortune and to fame unknown;
A sniper frowned not on her humble birth,
And, very hungry, marked her for his own.

H. MOSS, Va.

Clewer: St Stephen’s High School Magazine, 1919 (D/EX1675/6/2/2)

Peace terms given

The Peace Conference decided on the terms of the treaty which would formally emd the war.

8 May 1919

Peace terms given to German delegates!

Diary of Florence Vansittart Neale of Bisham Abbey (D/EX73/3/17/9)

Today the Peace Terms are to be handed to the Germans

It was an important day.

7th May 1919

Reminded boys that today the Peace Terms are to be handed to the Germans and that it is also the fourth anniversary of the sinking of The Lusitania with 1,198 souls.

Newbury St Nicolas CE (Boys) School log book (90/SCH/5/3, p. 51)

A danger board due to the PoW camp

Traffic associated with a PoW camp was a danger for local children.

May 6th 1919

Wrote to the Education Secretary recommending that a danger board be placed on the road above the school as owing to the German Prisoners’ Camp there is a good deal of motor traffic now passing the school.

Lower Sandhurst School log book (C/EL66/1, p. 469)

“They drinked and drinked till they had drinked it all up”

Now the war was over, William Hallam was hoping to retire back to his birthplace in the Vale of White Horse. On a reconnaissance trip he saw German PoWs hard at work.

22nd April 1919

Up at 7 this morning and went to Uffington by the 20 past 9 train. I walked up to Fernham. Looked over the churchyard and the church (modern) was locked. Just under churchyard a piece of ground occupied by the ruins of 2 old wattle & daub cottages which would do to build a new house on, I thought, if it could be bought cheap. Here an old man who was chopping the hedge tidy told me it was a sharp frost this morning, and if we had many more like it, it would do a lot of harm to the fruit.

I went on to Longcot and when I got there went into Pub to have a drink but the hostess said they hadn’t a drop of anything, she said you know Sir we had a wedding yesterday and they kept it up, yes, and they drinked and drinked till they had drinked it all up.”

I enquired of her where the houses were which were for sale and then went and looked at them. One was too big and another too small (one room down 2 up), another property was a block of 3 cottages – but I don’t want neighbours when I get into the country. I’ve had enough of their borrowing and gossiping ways here in Swindon. This property had high sounding names for instance the little cottage was Priory Glen, the 3 cottages Priory Place and the largest house the Priory, but all this is misnamed for I don’t believe a religious house or property ever existed there. However none of it will suit me.

I then went and looked round the Churchyard. I quizzed some of the stones – must go and copy them down. At the SW corner of the C.yard is a little house or room where they hold the Church… over the door is date 1821 & initial. Then I walked on to Shrivenham.

In a garden at Longcot I was 2 German prisoners at work planting potatoes- working very leisurely and smoking cigarettes. As I had plenty of time before getting to the station I went into Church & churchyard. Sat down in a pew and rested……..”

Diary of William Hallam (D/EX1415/25)

It could not be a very happy Easter for “us Germans”

There was an awkward exchange for Will Spencer in Switzerland.

Wed 16th April 1919

The first lesson for some weeks to Fraulein K Miller. When, in leaving, I wished her a happy Easter, she thanked me, but said it could not be a very happy one for “us Germans”. I had believed up till now that she was Swiss.

Diary of Will Spencer in Switzerland (D/EX801/29)

“What we have sunk to makes me sad”

John Maxwell Image had some interesting view on the effects of the war (some unfortunately anti-semitic).

29 Barton Road
7 April ‘19

My very dear old man

We have the American influx on us in full swing – u.g.s as plentiful as before the War: Navy blue and gold by the hundred: and now suddenly the Yanks. Where can all be accommodated?…

Ye take too much upon ye, ye sons of Zeruiah – that is the natural feeling as to the American air. They came in at the last hour – to receive every man a penny, and claim to boss the show.
Britain, bled to the white in men and money, cannot stand up against them. Grousing is no good. Our fighting class are killed off. Those now alive, want only panem et circences [bread and circuses]. They can‘t look beyond the day. Those who can make money, squander it: the unhappy ones with fixed incomes, and with a little saving, to tax for the proletariat’s advantage, won’t find England a fair country to live in, except for the Bolshevik. What claim to his own property will be regarded by Parliament.

Half an hour ago I was shewn Punches Almanack for 1915 – i.e. in the first 6 months of the War. It made me sad! What we expected then; and what we have sunk to. The retreat from Mons had but convinced us that we should thrash von Klack, and certainly – ; that, driven back to Germany, the Kaiser’s Army will be met by Cossacks in occupation of Berlin. No mention could I see of submarines! None of air-raids of any kind! What is more striking still, there was no hint of brutality by German soldiers, anywhere. There seemed in the country a contemptuous disdain for our German opponents. We should stamp them down, as did our fathers, and then Russia would mop them up. Poor Russia! And her German Tsaritsa – the cause of it all!

There was a curdling leader in the paper a few days ago on the Bolshevist Chiefs. Lenin, the writer who knows him [says], has brains and energy: and he is of noble birth. But Trotsky and the others – their names were all given – are one and all of them JEWS – and with the Jew characteristic of making a good thing for themselves, while others do the fighting.

It was a leader in the Times on April 1st (Tuesday). Read it. Trotsky, Zinovieff, Svendloff, Kameneff, Uritsky, Yoffe, Rodek, Litvinoff, many others – Jews one and all.

The Hon. Russell’s new book was reviewed in the Observer, did you see it? The Russell has the impertinence to pretend that Bolshevik ruthlessness is the offspring of Love! Is the man sane? or merely dishonest?

Your dear friend
JMI

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

178,000 tons food a week for starving people in Germany

Germany’s surrender was complete.

15 March 1919

Germany accepted Allies’ terms – begin giving up merchant ships today, & to receive 178,000 tons food a week for starving people.

Diary of Florence Vansittart Neale of Bisham Abbey (D/EX73/3/17/9)