Books & Digital Picks
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