A timeline towards Peace, Celebration, and Remembrance
This Armistice Day we take a look at the milestones that have shaped the remembrance practices that some of us participate in every 11th of November.
1918, July Letter from the Western Front
Written from a dugout in the trenches along the Western Front, this letter is by soldier Joe Brackley, to his friend Minnie Barden, of 21 Park Street, Bletchley. It dates to July 1918, some five months before the Armistice ceasefire. In the letter Joe longs for an end to the conflict, musing on being on a boat that gets torpedoed so as to have a death. Towards the end of the letter, he hopes to see Minnie again soon, when “peace float freely through the air and hasten the time when all cannons shall be speechless”.
A few months later on November 11 the signing of the Armistice of Compiegne brought an end to fighting along the Western front, between the Allies and Germany.
Circa 1919 Welcome Home – Great Horwood
People serving in the military were not all demobilised at once, many hands still being required in Europe and beyond. However, a lot of volunteers and conscripts had returned to civilian life by the end of 1919. We believe that this photograph was taken in 1919; it depicts soldiers and sailors, mostly in civilian clothes, being welcomed home.
1919 Peace Day, Winslow and Newport Pagnell
This was a national celebration, marking the Peace Treaty that ended World War One, signed in June 1919. Officially Peace Day was celebrated on 19th July 1919. Here we have a picture of an outdoor service that was a feature of the Winslow Peace Day celebrations. We also have a programme for the Newport Pagnell Peace Day celebrations, of the same day. The people of Newport Pagnell started the day with a grand procession, featuring demobilised soldiers, then an afternoon of sports including competitions to ‘climb the slippery pole’, a ‘Cross Bar Pillow Fight’, and of course, an egg-and-spoon race. The day concluded with a bonfire and fireworks.
1920 Unveiling of a war memorial Stokenchurch
From the end of the war until the mid-1920s, monies were being raised by communities, be that religious groups, benefit societies, schools or places of employment, to commission memorials to their dead. This is the parish war memorial in Stokenchurch, being unveiled by the Bishop. Money had been raised by the community, and land for the memorial had been given by M. Slade of nearby Mallard Court.
1924 Poppy Day, North Bucks
The earliest evidence we have in our archive of artificial poppies being produced and sold as a means of remembering the fallen of the Great War was 1921. Since then the poppy has become a sign of remembrance and a means of raising funds to support veterans of many conflicts. In the early years, the push to sell poppies focussed on ‘Poppy Day’, or Armistice Day – the 11th November, a practice that still continues today. Here we have the accounts of monies raised in the 1924 Poppy Day, in parishes to the north of Buckinghamshire, on behalf of the British Legion.
1927 Inspection of Veterans, Aylesbury
This photograph was taken in Aylesbury, and shows the Duke of York, the future King of England, inspecting local ex-service men who served in World War One, nine years after the end of the conflict. The effects of the war on its survivors were profound, ranging from physical disabilities such as lost limbs and sensory impairment, to less visible symptoms such as shell shock and depression. These effects had implications for reintegrating into civilian life, and resuming previous occupations.
1990s-2018 Local History Research
The last surviving man who saw service in World War One was Harry Patch, who died in 2007. As the centenary of the Great War loomed, many people saw that the names on their local war memorials were anonymous, and sought to attach stories and backgrounds to them. This has resulted in a great number of books and websites containing original research into these men, such as these books, to our own Great War Buckinghamshire website: http://www.greatwarbuckinghamshire.co.uk.