WE WILL NEVER FORGET
REMEMBRANCE WEEKEND COVERAGE:
THE diary of a First World War hero from Burton who gives a very personal take on Armistice Day has been discovered in long-forgotten archives.
The journal, which belonged to Sir Clifford F Gothard, was discovered by Ray Wilson, a volunteer with the archives service at Staffordshire County Council. He was fascinated by what he had found and has spent hours transcribing sections of the diary so they could be shared with the public.
Clifford F. Gothard was born in 1894 near Burton and was studying at the University of Birmingham in 1914 when the First World War broke out.
He joined the Artists’ Rifles as a Private in January 1916. He survived the war and was demobbed in June 1919, with the rank of captain.
An extract from his diary, from November 11, 1918, reads: “Caught 7.30 from Victoria for boat heard: PEACE ARMISTICE HAD BEEN SIGNED, whilst crossing. Boats all over bunting when we arrived at Boulogne we had two strings of flags.
“The French were excited and cheering so fanatically that we are all laughed instead of answering their cheers. People waved flags, air raid alarms went off all day and hooters blew etc.
“English was so quiet about it all that a French waitress said, ‘You English seem sorry war is over.’ Being assured we were quite bucked, she said, ‘Then why are so you triste [sad and mournful in French].’
“Had lunch at club, did some shopping – had tea at club, wrote home and went to dinner in usual crush and then went to bed after having a hot bath.”
When he returned to Burton, Sir Clifford became one of Burton’s leading civic figures and was the director of several companies, including Marston’s and the Burton Mail.
Gill Heath, from Staffordshire County Council, said: “This is a great diary extract for Sir Clifford and gives us a real insight into the mood at the time of the Armistice. It has everything, from how the F r e n c h were fanatically excited to how the British were more reserved when the news of peace came through.
“It also touches on how normality quickly returned, with Clifford doing some shopping, having dinner and then a hot bath before going to bed that night. “Over the last four years are archives service has been busy documenting records to help us understand what life was like during these incredibly important years in history. Archives like these are really precious and it’s vital we keep them for future generations to learn from. “I’d also like to thank our volunteer Ray who has spent many years transcribing all Sir Clifford’s war diaries.”
Volunteer Ray Wilson, who transcribed the diaries of Sir Clifford F Gothard
Captain Clifford Gothard