‘Christ­mas has come and we are no longer fight­ing. God has blessed your ef­forts’

The Herald Magazine - - 20 - RUS­SELL LEAD­BET­TER

AT long last, the war had come to an end that Novem­ber with the sign­ing of the ar­mistice. Four bloody years of con­flict – four “fev­er­ish, dev­as­tat­ing years”, in the later words of Scot­tish his­to­rian Wil­liam Ferguson – had left mil­lions dead and three em­pires bro­ken in de­feat.

Not that con­flict had ended en­tirely. In his in­tro­duc­tion to the Ox­ford Il­lus­trated His­tory of the First World War, Pro­fes­sor Hew Stra­chan writes that the war “did not end as neatly as the com­mem­o­ra­tive events clus­tered around the an­niver­sary of the ar­mistice”.

Con­flict per­sisted across cen­tral and eastern Europe; civil wars di­vided Rus­sia and Poland ...” Revo­lu­tion­ary un­rest had also been stirred in some parts of Ger­many.

On Christ­mas Day, the Glas­gow Her­ald wrote with feel­ing that it was “the hap­pi­est Christ­mas Western Europe has known since the lurid cloud­burst of Au­gust 1914”.

Even so, it was hard to think of the fes­tive sea­son in “full Christ­mas terms, so to speak,” the lead­ing ar­ti­cle added, “for the Euro­pean Con­ti­nent is shak­ing with revo­lu­tion­ary fires, ma­chine-guns are still mak­ing tar­gets of tar­gets of hu­man bod­ies [ma­chine-guns and tear-gas had been de­ployed in cen­tral Berlin on Christ­mas Eve], and the gaunt spec­tre of famine is claim­ing myr­iad of vic­tims in des­o­lated coun­tries”.

But that De­cem­ber no one could blame peo­ple for cel­e­brat­ing a Christ­mas and New Year in peace. In Scot­land, the Her­ald ob­served, Christ­mas Day, a Wed­nes­day, was cel­e­brated “with a mea­sure of fes­tiv­ity ap­proach­ing pre-war times”.

In Lon­don, the King and Queen, who at­tended a morn­ing ser­vice at West­min­ster Abbey, is­sued a mes­sage that was re­layed to hos­pi­tals where the dis­abled, sick and wounded from the war were be­ing treated. “An­other Christ­mas has come round,” it be­gan, “and we are no longer fight­ing. God has blessed your ef­forts… To the dis­abled, sick and wounded, we send a spe­cial greet­ing, pray­ing that with re­turn­ing health you may be com­forted and cheered by the vi­sion of those good days of peace for which you have sac­ri­ficed so much.”

Glas­gow Royal In­fir­mary’s chair­man, James Mac­far­lane, replied that the mes­sage had been read to the sick and wounded sailors and sol­diers there – “all of whom, I am glad to say, are do­ing well”.

In Glas­gow, pri­vate busi­nesses, gov­ern­ment of­fices and most shops were closed.

In the evening, great num­bers of peo­ple strolled along the main streets, although the “great mass of the pop­u­la­tion” – those who worked in the

ship­yards and other in­dus­tries – would have to wait un­til the Satur­day for their hol­i­day sea­son to be­gin.

Sev­eral or­gan­i­sa­tions went to con­sid­er­able lengths to en­ter­tain var­i­ous groups, from some 1,200 chil­dren of sol­diers who had died dur­ing the war to Bel­gian refugees who were liv­ing in the city and wounded sol­diers re­cov­er­ing in hos­pi­tal.

Spe­cial per­for­mances were put on in Glas­gow’s the­atres, mu­sic halls and cin­e­mas, all en­joyed by what the Her­ald termed “hol­i­day­mak­ers”. Among the at­trac­tions: a panto, Handy Andy, at the Princess’s The­atre; Jack and the Beanstalk at the Al­ham­bra; a “Grand Am­a­teur Car­ni­val” at the Col­i­seum (“£100 in prizes”); Lit­tle Red Rid­ing Hood at the The­atre Royal; rag­time duet­tists Manny and Roberts,

from Broad­way, at the Em­pire; a new mu­si­cal play, Go­ing Up, Go­ing Up, at the King’s.

There was, as it turns out, a more un­usual at­trac­tion on of­fer. A num­ber of sur­ren­dered Ger­man sub­marines were on dis­play at the Broomielaw and Kingston Dock. So great was the press of peo­ple ea­ger to in­spect them that many had to be turned away.

In Ed­in­burgh, churches staged well-at­tended Christ­mas ser­vices; at the Scot­tish Gen­eral Mil­i­tary Hos­pi­tal, Craigleith, where there were 800 pa­tients, in­clud­ing 400 repa­tri­ated pris­on­ers of war, the wards were gaily dec­o­rated and each pa­tient re­ceived a par­cel con­tain­ing to­bacco, choco­late and other items.

In Greenock, work­ers at the tor­pedo fac­tory en­joyed a day off. In Al­loa, gifts

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