WORLD WAR I 100 years ago, all fell silent

Sunday Sun - - News - By Dave Mor­ton david.mor­ton.ed­i­to­rial@ncj­me­

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

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