After the war, the trou­ble be­gins ...

When the fight­ing stopped, peace broke out ... Well, not quite. As the world ad­justed in the years after the war, new ten­sions arose which would send rip­ples far into the fu­ture. ex­plains ...

The Herald on Sunday - - NEWS -

Sir Hew Stra­chan

THE news of the Ar­mistice spread rapidly. On Novem­ber 11, 1918, there was no two min­utes’ si­lence. True, guns on the Western Front were silent, but in cities across the world, from Paris and Lon­don to New York and Syd­ney, “a pan­de­mo­nium of noise” (in the words of Beatrice Webb) brought peo­ple out on to the streets.

In Ed­in­burgh, a party of sol­diers and sailors halted a lorry laden with beer bar­rels in Leith Walk and broached one bar­rel on the pave­ment. A New Zealan­der, John Lee, who had won a Dis­tin­guished Con­duct Medal at Messines in 1917 and lost an arm in the Ger­man of­fen­sive the fol­low­ing spring, was con­va­lesc­ing in Brock­en­hurst in Hamp­shire. Hear­ing of the Ar­mistice, he caught a train from Wey­bridge to Water­loo and par­tied for three days: “I can scarcely re­mem­ber whether I slept in a bed, on a couch or on a car­pet or with whom.”

Cel­e­bra­tion, although the dom­i­nant re­sponse to the Ger­man sur­ren­der, was not the only emo­tion of the day. The dy­ing had not stopped and peace, when it came, would force a dif­fer­ent ad­just­ment to loss and grief. As the ex­pec­ta­tion of a set­tle­ment mounted in Oc­to­ber, Cyn­thia Asquith, the daugh­ter-in-law of the for­mer prime min­is­ter, re­alised “the need to look at long vis­tas again, in­stead of short ones”.

Fa­mously, Wil­fred Owen’s fam­ily heard of his death on Novem­ber 11 it­self. That day many were in hos­pi­tal, with wounds from which they too would suc­cumb.

In the fol­low­ing weeks in­fluenza re­turned with re­newed force, tak­ing off sol­diers un­der train­ing who had yet to see ac­tion. How to mourn and how to memo­ri­alise had not yet as­sumed a pat­tern. Just as there was no si­lence on Novem­ber 11, 1918, so there was no Ceno­taph, no pop­pies and no Un­known Soldier.

More­over, their cre­ation and es­tab­lish­ment would gen­er­ate con­tro­versy and divi­sion, be­tween church and state, and be­tween fam­ily and coun­try. The church would be un­happy at the sec­u­lar na­ture of many memo­ri­als; fam­i­lies would re­sist the de­ci­sion of the Im­pe­rial (to­day Com­mon­wealth) War Graves Com­mis­sion’s de­ci­sion not to repa­tri­ate the bod­ies of those who had died over­seas.

As un­set­tling were the po­lit­i­cal and so­cial chal­lenges. Beatrice Webb, a so­cial­ist and Fabian, wrote in her di­ary on Novem­ber 11: “Thrones are ev­ery­where crash­ing and the men of prop­erty are ev­ery­where se­cretly trem­bling.” As she sat at her desk in Lon­don, lis­ten­ing to the noise, she asked her­self: “How soon will the tide of rev­o­lu­tion catch up the tide of vic­tory? Will it be six months or a year?”

Caro­line Ethel Cooper, an Aus­tralian who had been trapped in Ger­many since 1914, re­flected sim­i­lar con­cerns. “There is no time to lose in mak­ing peace,” she wrote from Leipzig to her sis­ter in Ade­laide on Novem­ber 10, 1918. “The red flag is not stopped by geo­graph­i­cal bound­aries, and the wip­ing out of a ridicu­lous feu­dal sys­tem in Rus­sia or Ger­many will not sat­isfy it, and the es­tab­lish­ment of an old-fash­ioned bour­geois repub­lic on Swiss, French or Amer­i­can lines is not its ob­ject.

“Its real en­emy is cap­i­tal­ism and its real ob­ject, the found­ing of a so­cial­is­tic repub­lic ... If peace is not con­cluded quickly, it looks as if we might have a Euro­pean chaos which would be even worse than an or­ga­nized war.”

Re­sponses at the front were as con­fused. Many took the news qui­etly, barely able to com­pre­hend that the war was over. Pe­la­tion­ships, be­tween hus­band and wife, par­ent and child, frac­tured by long sep­a­ra­tion and life-chang­ing but di­ver­gent ex­pe­ri­ences, would have to be re­built. Men who had had no other ca­reer, and who were not sure they would ever have one, for whom mil­i­tary ser­vice rep­re­sented the rite of pas­sage from ado­les­cence to adult­hood, could be bereft with­out war’s in­ten­sity.

“Once you have lain in her arms you can ad­mit no other mistress,” Guy Chap­man wrote of the mil­i­tary life 14 years later: “No wine gives fiercer in­tox­i­ca­tion, no drug more vivid ex­al­ta­tion.” Chap­man, an of­fi­cer in the Royal Fusiliers, was awarded the Mil­i­tary Cross for his ac­tions at Ghissin­gies, close to the Franco-Bel­gian bor­der, on the day that Owen had died, Novem­ber 11, 1918.

Many Amer­i­cans, late­com­ers to the war, felt acutely the frus­tra­tion that it had ended so soon. Some sought bat­tle up to, and even be­yond, the dead­line of 11am. For them, as for the Royal Navy in Scapa Flow, the end of the war came as an an­ti­cli­max. The Grand Fleet, thwarted at Jut­land in 1916, still sought their equiv­a­lent of Water­loo, a bat­tle so de­ci­sive that it would both de­fine an era and sanc­tify what had been achieved. In some re­spects these re­sponses were pre­ma­ture. The

Sir Hew Stra­chan is Pro­fes­sor of In­ter­na­tional Re­la­tions at the Univer­sity of St An­drews and a mem­ber of the WW100 Scot­land Panel. Ar­mistice still gave the navy an ac­tive role: the block­ade of Ger­many, now tight­ened as never be­fore, was to con­tinue. The Ger­mans protested that con­tin­ued eco­nomic war­fare con­sti­tuted ac­tive hos­til­i­ties, ones more­over di­rected specif­i­cally at women and chil­dren. The United States, and par­tic­u­larly its pres­i­dent, was not happy.

In the new year, Her­bert Hoover re­sponded by or­gan­is­ing famine re­lief, and the Save the Chil­dren Fund was es­tab­lished in Bri­tain in April 1919. Of course, for those on other fronts the for­mal fight­ing had fin­ished weeks or – in the case of Rus­sia – months be­fore, but even after Novem­ber 11 not all hos­til­i­ties with Ger­many im­me­di­ately ceased. News of the Ar­mistice took two days to reach East Africa, and Paul von Let­tow-Vor­beck’s force in to­day’s Zam­bia did not ac­cept terms un­til Novem­ber 25. Im­por­tantly, the Ar­mistice was a mil­i­tary ar­range­ment, tech­ni­cally a pause in the fight­ing, and was re­new­able ev­ery 36 days un­til a peace set­tle­ment was fi­nally con­cluded.

For­mally the war con­tin­ued un­til the peace treaties of Ver­sailles, Neuilly, St Ger­main, Tri­anon and Sevres were all signed, a process only com­pleted in 1920. The sep­a­ra­tion of the mil­i­tary pro­cesses for end­ing the war from the po­lit­i­cal bar­gain­ing proved pro­foundly dam­ag­ing.

After his suc­cess at Megiddo in Septem­ber 1918, Ed­mund Al­lenby sig­nalled the For­eign Of­fice in Lon­don to ask for guid­ance on what terms he should of­fer if the Turks sought an Ar­mistice. Arthur Bal­four, For­eign Sec­re­tary, replied that he did not yet know what they would be.

For Foch in France, this fail­ure in au­tumn 1918 to link the in­cip­i­ent vic­tory di­rectly to the de­liv­ery of po­lit­i­cal out­comes was un­con­scionable. But when he protested, France’s pre­mier, Ge­orges Cle­menceau, told him that as a soldier he should stay out of pol­i­tics. In prac­tice, a

The Ar­mistice was tech­ni­cally a pause in the fight­ing, and was re­new­able ev­ery 36 days un­til a peace set­tle­ment was fi­nally con­cluded

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