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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“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)

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)

Sick at the thought of how we are being let down at Versailles today!

John Maxwell Image was not optimistic about the future. His wounded brother in law was our friend Percy Spencer.

29 Barton Road
7 May ‘19

My dearest old man

Florence … wants to see her wounded brother who is still at St Thomas’s Hospital, poor fellow.

I feel sick at the thought of how we are being let down at Versailles today! Especially at the ingratitude of Belgium, and of Italy – the latter I have heard vigorously defended here. But Belgium!

And the Agitators in Britain!

And Shinn [sic] Fein impudence!

What a future lies before every one in England except the moneygrubber and the Profiteer and their lickspittles.


Tuissimus
Bild

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

Stricken with Bolshevism

Hungary, which had been part of the defeated Austro-Hungarian Enmmpire, was in a highly unstable state.

26 March 1919

Johnson’s wedding day. Now Mrs Smith! Our Mr S. & Lottie went.

H & I to tea with Belgians, as farewell…

Hungary stricken with Bolshevism. Budapest isolated.

Council of 10 at Peace Conference reduced to Lloyd George, Clemenceau, Orlando & Wilson.

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

“It is not only the world of nature that is pulsing with the promise of new life, we are all hoping to see a better world after the terrible days of war”

The vicar of Wargrave had a postwar Easter message.

Lent

Easter comes late this year and “Lent”, which means “Spring” should be full of the promise of its name. But it is not only the world of nature that is pulsing with the promise of new life, we are all hoping to see a better world after the terrible days of war. So our thoughts turn to the Terms of Peace and we pray for the statesmen concerned that they may be filled with the Spirit of wisdom and counsel.

We could not find a better subject for Lenten thought, prayer and effort than the Terms of Peace.

When we think of the Paris Conference we pray for such a Peace as may advance the Kingdom of God. We know that God rules over the affairs of men and is working His purpose out through human history. The policy of nations may be so directed as to obstruct His purpose. When this is so we learn from history that man may obstruct but cannot frustrate God’s will. God overrules the stubborn policy of Pharraoh and with a mighty hand He brings His people out. But it is also true that the policy of nations may be harmonious with the will of God. It is so when the endeavour is to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo heavy burdens, to let the oppressed go free and to break every yoke. “Happy is that people; that is in such a case: yea, happy is that people whose God is the Lord.”

When we think of Industrial Peace in our own country we know the terms upon which it can be secured, they are to be found within the circle of family life, where they are reorganised as being ordained of God. For by one Spirit are we all baptised into one body. And whether one member suffer all members suffer with it; or one member be honoured; all members rejoice with it. “Let nothing be done through strife of vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.” “Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love.”

When we think of inward troubles, each one of the plague of his own heart, we know Who has made Peace through the blood of His cross. The terms are open to us without money and without price. “Come now, let us reason together, such the Lord; though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.” “Repent and turn yourselves from all your transgressions; so injury shall not be your ruin.”

“Come unto me all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest”.

The Book of Revelation has a special message for such times as we have passed through during the last four years but it is not easy to understand. Perhaps there are some people who will like to make it a subject of special reading during Lent.

Wargrave parish magazine, March 1919 (D/P145/28A/31)

Peace in a fortnight

The peace negotiations were ongoing. J H Thomas was the MP for Derby.

18 March 1919

Lloyd George begged to stay in Paris for Peace Conference, & have peace in fortnight. Labour member Mr Thomas flew over to consult him!

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

“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)

Pray for co-operation and the spirit of unity among all classes

There were still problems to face.

YOUR PRAYERS ARE ASKED –

For the Peace Conference and all its members.

For all our men serving at home and abroad.

For the Chaplains to the Forces.

For a peaceful solution to all Industrial Problems.

For co-operation and the spirit of unity among all classes.

Newbury St Nicolas parish magazine, February 1919 (D/P89/28A/14)

Anarchy at the peace conference

Emile (not Joseph!) Cottin attacked the French Prime Minister Georges Clemenceau, who was chairing the Versailles Peace Conference.

20 February 1919

Brown got “flu”…

Clemenceau shot at by anarchist Joseph Cottin. He nearly lynched.

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

Now that the war is over we have been able to have our usual Christmas treats

Reading children enjoyed a peacetime Christmas season.

The Vicar’s Notes

Now that the war is over we have been able to have our usual Christmas treats, and to enter into them with more zest than ever. The infants and the boys and girls of our Sunday school, the choir lads, the mothers, and the Sunday school teachers and altar servers have been hospitably entertained through the generosity of many of our kind people.

Intercessions

For God’s blessing on the Peace Conference now being held in Paris.


Reading St Mary parish magazine, February 1919 (D/P98/28A/16)

Our hearts are all lighter because the War is, we hope, finally closed by this Armistice

Great challenges faced the country after the war.

Dear Friends and Parishioners

The past month has been one of much Parish festivity. Our hearts are all lighter because the War is, we hope, finally closed by this Armistice. Still there are great difficulties to face, and we must pray for courage and wisdom to tackle them in the right spirit and with the right methods. Our interest and our prayers should be enlisted for the Statesmen assembled in Conference in Paris that they may be granted wisdom to re-order and re-establish the Countries of Europe on just and wise lines.

And in the case of our social problems at home, we all need to pray (for practically all of us now have some voice and some responsibility) for the wisdom, industry, and patience needed to realise our present hopes and ideals. We all want to maintain the increased sobriety of the Nation, we all want better homes for the poorer members of our community, we all want to retain a decent wage for all sections of our workers, whether with brain or hand; we all, as Church people, are keen on improving our Educational system, and developing the religious and moral side of it on all Schools; we are all resolved to maintain the sanctity of Christian marriage, and to promote that purity of life which alone will provide an A 1 population (to use the Prime Minister’s phrase), for the working of the great Empire which we hold in trust for God and man.

All this is easy to discuss, but to bring about is a work of almost overwhelming difficulty. Nothing but the Grace of God is sufficient for its accomplishment. Let us remember our hopes and ideals in our prayers, and then do our best in a spirit of comradeship that thinks first of the Church and Nation as a whole, and only secondly of party or class.

The next few weeks are a general time in Church life; we can use them for the study of great questions affecting Church and Nation before the special period of Lenten discipline begins.

I remain, Your faithful friend and Vicar,

C E M Fry

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

The baneful influence of Bolshevism

Post-war Europe was threatened by the spread of revolution.

The Peace Conference now sitting and deliberating in Paris is the supreme object of our interest and our Prayers. The present disturbed state of Europe makes it imperative that the Conference should agree as soon as possible in its resolutions and in the action to be taken by the Allied Countries for the suppression of Bolshevism, and the liberation of Russia and Poland from its baneful influence. A multitude of difficult problems has to be solved by the Conference. We must pray that its Unity may not be impaired by any purely selfish ambitions on the part of any of various nations taking part in it, but that Peace based upon Justice to all, may continue to be its high ideal. Let us pray that man’s wisdom may be over ruled by that wisdom from on high which is “first pure, and then peaceable.”

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

To Paris for Peace Conference

British politicians headed to France to sort out peace terms.

11 January 1919

Lloyd George & Bonar Law went to Paris today for Peace Conference.

H & I round by J & B Farrer to fetch a pheasant they were giving to Phyllis. She had a bad night. Much pain with tube. Surgeon put in a smaller one. Very good sleep after lunch but still tired.

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

The new year opens bright with hope, like a glorious morning after the night of darkness and storm

Churchgoers in Warfield and Winkfield rejoiced.

Warfield

It is suggested by the Archbishops that special thanksgiving for Victory, and special prayer for the statesmen of the world assembled in the Peace Conference, should be offered on the first Sunday in the new year, January 5th. The new year opens bright with hope, like a glorious morning after the night of darkness and storm. Clouds are still in the sky, but they are broken and the sun shines through. May we render thanks and glory to God in the Highest; and pray Him to inspire men with His own Spirit of Good-will, for good-will alone can bring true and lasting peace to homes, to nations and to all mankind.

It is hoped to hold a meeting during January, to consider the raising of a War Memorial in the Parish.

Winkfield

On the first Sunday, (January 5th) in the new year, which we trust will bring us the blessing of a just and lasting Peace, it is indeed fitting that we should join with other parishes all over the land in special Thanksgivings for Victory and deliverance from our enemies, and also pray specially for our Rulers and the Statesmen of the world, that the coming Peace Conference they may be enabled to lay the foundation of the effective establishment of a League of Nations which will prevent the horrors of war in the future.

Winkfield District Magazine, January 1919 (D/P 151/28A/11)