Books & Dig­i­tal Picks

Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine - - CONTENTS - GUY CUTH­BERT­SON Yale Univer­sity Press, 293 pages, £18.99

This month’s fam­ily his­tory in­spi­ra­tion

A Por­trait Of Ar­mistice Day, 11 Novem­ber 1918

This book cel­e­brates 11 Novem­ber 1918 – the Ar­mistice of the First World War, when the guns ceased and the church bells started ring­ing again. It cov­ers the main events such as the sign­ing of the Ar­mistice terms in a rail­way car­riage in the for­est of Com­piègne, ‘Le Wagon de la Vic­toire’, but also the more per­sonal events con­tin­gent on it such as the im­me­di­ate re­lease of pris­on­ers of war. This snap­shot of what our fore­bears were do­ing on the Home Front and on the bat­tle­field

on this his­toric day rounds out the pic­ture of their lives for fam­ily his­to­ri­ans. Guy Cuth­bert­son has dili­gently scoured news­pa­pers, diaries, mem­oirs and not a lit­tle po­etry of the pe­riod. The book is thought­ful but easy to read.

On the Home Front, civil­ians burned ef­fi­gies of the Kaiser on bon­fires. The car­ni­va­lesque at­mos­phere re­sem­bled pa­gan rit­u­als of life de­feat­ing death, of the re­newal of spring. Some had planned for years what to do at the end of the war and had made

elab­o­rate ban­ners and flags while oth­ers stormed the shops for red, white and blue rib­bons, or im­pro­vised with pieces from bed cov­ers and ladies’ un­der­wear.

Wire­less was still in its in­fancy; in­for­ma­tion was spread by news­pa­pers, pub­lic meet­ings and tele­grams, some of which, trag­i­cally, con­tin­ued to ar­rive af­ter the Ar­mistice to an­nounce

the deaths of sol­diers in the last days of the war. There was re­joic­ing, but the enor­mity of the sac­ri­fice made some of our ances­tors re­flec­tive rather than joy­ous. In fu­ture an­niver­saries the cheer of the Ar­mistice changed to solem­nity; re­mem­brance re­placed cel­e­bra­tion, si­lence re­placed noise, and pop­pies re­placed bunting.

‘Civil­ians burned ef­fi­gies of the Kaiser on bon­fires’

The sign­ing of the Ar­mistice at 5am on 11 Novem­ber 1918

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