The IWM podcast, Armistice, gave the events and times of how World War I came to an end. The podcast was recorded with some commentary from the narrator but mostly consisted of veterans and people from the WWI era giving their accounts of how they felt and what emotions they went through when they hear of the armistice.
In early October of 1918, Germany, who was no longer able to support the war, approached the United States about an armistice. One of the veterans from the podcast, Marmaduke Walkington, said that British soldiers had a sense that things were coming to an end and, “early in November I wrote home and said we may have peace by Christmas, but this is not very probable. Easter should see the end of it all, that, mind you at the time, we ran a sweepstake on the day the war would end”. After weeks of negotiation, an armistice was finally signed at 5am on November 11th. Military commanders on the western front were informed that hostilities would cease at 11 o’clock.
People found out in varied ways and in different paces. George Jameson’s unit read about it. He said that “ when the war ended we didn’t even know about it. We know that things were getting pretty critical, we knew that we were doing well and nobody wanted to cop out, the war might be ending tomorrow, sort of thing”. People were still fighting and preparing for more conflict. “We were moving forward with the idea of taking another position when one of the drivers shouted that there’s a sign on that thing marking the war’s over. We didn’t believe it, nobody would believe it” said Jameson.
When the word finally got out, people reacted in different ways. British Officer Tom Adlum said “I don’t think any of us thought we would lose. I think we were confident all the time. We always thought we were a bit better than they were but I always thought that the German was a good fighter. Even the most timid of us thought we would win in the end”. Some soldiers like Clifford Lane were too mentally and physically destroyed to celebrate the end of the war. “As far as the armistice itself is concerned, it was kind of an anti-climax. We were too far gone, too exhausted really, to enjoy it. All we could do was just go back to our billets. There was no cheering, no singing. We had no alcohol on that particular day, no alcohol at all. We simply celebrated the armistice in silence and in thankfulness that it was all over”.
London was a contrast to these reactions. People gathered in the streets from everywhere. Thousands of people from every building. There was no more work done that day. This news also came as a sign of hope for the conscientious objectors, those imprisoned for refusing to join the war. Wilfred Little boy said that he knew it would not be so simple to get released. Especially since it was taking the authorities so long to get the soldiers home. “In point of actual fact, it was just about six months, because it was April 1919, that all of those that had done at least two years, were liberated”.
For prisoners of war, the news did not travel quickly either. In fact it was almost lost in translation. Burt Ferns was imprisoned in Germany and it was posted on a bulletin board in German. He said “ We called the old sentry over and he came over with his rifle and we told him to have a look at this and when he did he put his rifle on the ground and when he did that we knew the war was over”.
The final note in this podcast was how, as part of the surrender, Germany had to surrender all of their high seas fleet in late November. There was such a wide variety of reactions and sadness to those who would never return home. People lost friends and family to this war and after all of the different types of celebrations going on during this time were over, most of the people involved in this war were left with nothing but sadness.
One of the things that I wished this podcast had was more information on the actual end of the war. I loved all of the stories and enjoyed hearing from the veterans, but so much was involved in the end of this war. Other than Germany giving up their fleets, it did not touch on all of the other things that Germany was charged. I know from previous classes that they owed an outrageous amount of money. A sum that they could never have been able to pay back. They also lost land and so much more and that just wasn’t talked about. I did enjoy the stories, but I was looking for more of the conditions of the treaty rather than just the reactions to it.
I also feel like, while it may not be appropriate (not really sure), that the losing countries voices were lost. I know it was a British focused podcast, but there was two sides to this war and I think this podcast really left out half of the views of this war. What did the Germans feel about this armistice? Were they just as glad that it was over? Did they want to keep fighting? I think I would have really liked both perspectives here because this armistice was definitely not a simple and straightforward matter. It involved raw emotion and I wish I had something from the other side.
I pledge, Ashleigh Grim