Tuesday, November 11, 2008

On Armistice Day 1918

It’s the 90th anniversary of the end of the First World War, Armistice Day. Many soldiers kept diaries during the war, and many of them are available online. Here, to celebrate the day, are a few randomly-chosen verbatim diary entries found online, all dated 11 November 1918 (except the last, which is dated 12 November). 

General Douglas Haig, British Commander in Chief, at Cambrai, France
‘Fine day but cold and dull.’ His entry also mentions the poor state of the German army and his meeting with the Prince of Wales and various allied commanders and foreign dignitaries.

Robert Lindsay Mackay, 11th Battalion of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, in Calais
‘Mobs rushing singing through the streets of [Calais] at night. News of Armistice confirmed - Thank God! I set off again for the battalion, but stopped en route to give me a chance of finding the grave of my friend, John McIntosh, a gunner, killed at Neuve Chappelle. Found gun pits. No graves nearby.’

Thomas Fredrick Littler, Royal Engineers, in hospital at Wimereux, France
‘We had news in hospital that the enemy had pleaded for an armistice and that terms had been handed to him, which he accepted as armistice terms, and he is thoroughly beaten, it is a day of rejoicing and everybody seems happy and glad, bands are playing outside and guns firing salutes, but I feel too ill to take much interest in it.’

William Dalton Lycett, with Anzac troops in Plymouth
‘Up at 7 a.m. shaved and had breakfast then got pass and went to Devonport Military Hospital to see dentist. On the way in buzzers, whistles on our ships all started blowing, terrific noise at 9.10 a.m. It was the news come through of signing of Armistice terms by Fritz, great excitement. Saw dentist and had tooth filled and away by 11 a.m. Stayed in Devonport for little while then went on to Plymouth, called in restaurant for dinner and was given glass of port wine and had dinner free. The place a seething mass of people all gone mad. Caught 10.30 p.m. tram and in bed 11 p.m.’

John Bruce Cairnie of the King’s African Rifles in Tanganyika
‘Armistice signed at 11a.m. this morning: the news reached us at 5p.m. C.O. announced it on parade. I can’t realize it, that the war is finished, probably because we are so far from everything. Had dinner outside, with C.O. etc. Sounds of revelry all over the camp, altho’ I don’t think the askaris know what has happened, except in a vague way.’

General Lionel Dunsterville, a British general, in India
‘Susanna and Miss Key arrived from Murree by the early morning train and brought with them the wonderful news of: P E A C E AT LAST! and this GREATEST WAR is over. We are so accustomed to war in this fifth year that we can hardly believe the news. Meantime I have been more or less forgiven and am to have command of a new Brigade at Agra - but I do not believe now that the war is over that they will ever want any new Brigades. Susanna and Miss Key are staying with the Bomfords and we go over there also in a few days. We celebrated Peace at the Club with a Champagne dinner party with the Rennies.’

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