WORLD WAR I 100 years ago, all fell silent
ONE hundred years ago the guns fell silent. The Great War was over.
Fought between 1914 and 1918, it was the most brutal of conflicts.
The industrial-scale slaughter played out on the Western Front, at sea, in the air, and at various points around the globe, claimed more than 800,000 British souls.
Many thousands more had their lives shattered. The scars - both physical and mental - were slow to heal and for many they never would.
Virtually no city, town, village or community was left untouched by the tragedy of the Great War.
No section of society escaped the far-reaching deadly tentacles of the conflagration.
A century on from the end of World War I , the mere names of the great battles can still chill us. It’s impossible for us today to imagine the sheer scale of slaughter amid the barbed wire and mud of the Somme and Passchendaele on the Western Front.
Imagine this. In November 1916, after four-and-a-half months’ fighting on the Somme, 420,000 British and Imperial soldiers had been killed or wounded — 60,000 on the first day alone. The furthest advance made was seven miles.
The one-time British foreign secretary, the Marquess of Lansdowne, roared: “Are we to continue until we have killed ALL our young men?”
Servicemen from the North East played a major part in the four years of fighting.
No-one who fought in the conflict is left alive – and that momentous chapter has shifted from living memory to history.
A century on, how do we analyse the impact of the war on our region – and what was the region’s contribution to the war?
Dr Martin Farr, a historian at Newcastle University, says: “As a producer of both machines and men, no comparably-sized area in the world had greater impact on the war than Tyneside.
“The strong local and regional ties both encouraged those men to volunteer with their mates, and then helped their communities deal with the consequences of the war, whether they were of death, maiming, or of injuries invisible to the eye.”
While tens of thousand of Tyneside men were away fighting, the shipyards, factories and coal mines of our region went into overdrive, helping power the war effort.
Meanwhile, in the absence of so many men, thousands of North East women worked like Trojans in armaments factories and shipyards, keeping the vital wheels of industry turning.
As the war reached its bloody conclusion, and with the Allies set to clinch victory, hundreds of thousands of Britons lay dead and the country was running out of food and facing starvation.
The Armistice was signed on November 11, 1918.
One hundred years ago today, the peace treaty was hammered out by the Allies and the defeated enemy in a railway carriage in the middle of a French forest at five o’clock in the morning. It would formally come into effect at 11am that day.
In an age long before TV, radio and the internet, the news spread relatively slowly.
On the Western Front, the soldiers were cheering by 8.30am. By 9.30am the news had reached the huge Royal Navy fleet based at Scapa Flow in the Orkney Isles.
Closer to home, at North Shields, two boats were seen with bunting at 8.10am. At South Shields, boats were sounding their horns 20 minutes later.
The cities of Britain began to hear the 10.30am.
Our sister paper, the Newcastle Evening Chronicle, reported later that day: “There were many people waiting outside the Chronicle office in anticipation of the welcome intelligence arriving and the announcement caused the most joyful satisfaction.
“At many places of business, public buildings and private houses, flags were immediately displayed.
“The bells of St Nicholas rang out a merry peal at eleven o’clock, the hour of the ceasefire on all fronts.
“Judging by the throngs in the centre of the town, some thousands of men must have taken a holiday in anticipation of the Armistice being signed.
“The display of flags rapidly increased, and rosettes of red, white and blue were largely worn.
“The noise of maroons (fireworks) being fired sounded every now and then, above the pealing of the bells in the cathedral tower, and aeroplanes decorated with Union Jacks flew over the city.
“Not for more than four years had there been seen so many happy faces in Newcastle as were to be noted.
“A great weight seemed to have been lifted from the public mind, and the townsfolk walked abroad light-hearted as schoolchildren, and as though they had been suddenly endowed with a new vision and joy in life.”
As it grew dark, bonfires were lit around the region, and young boys dressed in the khaki of their fathers and brothers. By midnight all was quiet.
Soon after the end of the Great War, thousands of marble and granite memorials which honoured the conflict’s “glorious dead” were erected in villages, towns and cities across Britain.
In the years and decades that followed, the annual Remembrance Day on November 11 would become a solemn affair.
One hundred years on, we honour and remember the eternal bravery of those who fought and died for the freedoms we take for granted today.
“At the going down of the sun and in the morning, We will remember them.” news at around
Cadets from Dame Allan’s School in Newcastle were at the ready in 1914
Soldiers on the Somme, 1916