Views from the Vicarage - November 2014
- Published on Saturday, 01 November 2014 00:00
This Remembrance Sunday is poignant as it is a hundred years since the First Word War or Great War, the war to end all wars. The poppies around the Tower of London vividly show the cost of that war with nearly a million poppies in the moat to represent all those who died.
1918 was a miserable year for the countries involved in the Great War. Nothing much seemed to happen, in the sense of the conflict coming to any conclusion. Casualties continued to mount, so that all over Europe there were bereaved families - indeed whole villages where most of the young men had been killed or were grievously wounded. In Britain, the advantage of being an island may have kept us from the invading German army, but now it began to make us vulnerable to a new and deadly foe, the marauding U-boats, which stalked the seas in order to torpedo ships bringing food and goods to these shores. Suddenly there were shortages and the need for a new naval strategy to deal with their menace. Zeppelin, and then aircraft raids on London and other British cities brought home the truth that this war was not simply being fought out on foreign fields. The truth was, however, that bad as things were in Britain and France, they were far worse in Germany. Casualties were so great that teenage boys were being recruited into the army, food was scarce, and by early 1918 the resources to continue fighting the war were at breaking point. If they could not win the war in the next six months, the generals told the Kaiser, it would be lost. Soldiers were drafted back from the far-flung baffle grounds of Asia and Africa to shore up the dwindling ranks at home. By contrast, in June 1917 the first American troops had joined the war, though they were inexperienced in battle terms and relatively few in number. But by the Spring of 1918 their numbers had swollen, and the encouragement that gave to the hard-pressed Allies was considerable. During the summer of that year the balance of the war began to tip crucially towards the Allies, so that as Autumn approached the German generals were moving towards accepting the need for some kind of negotiated cease-fire. The Allies were at the German borders, the Americans had brought not just men but equipment and, more importantly, hope. Perhaps, after all, this war could be won. That was the atmosphere in which the warring powers agreed to formal talks about what they called an 'armistice' - a word derived from Latin, simply meaning 'end of armed combat'. The Germans at first hoped it would give them a chance to recover, and perhaps eventually pursue the conflict with renewed strength. The Allies, however, from a position of strength, were determined to ensure that Germany would be left in no condition to wage war or swiftly to recover economically. With those as the negotiating positions, the generals met in a railway carriage at Versailles, near Paris. An armistice agreement was eventually hammered out and the guns of this terrible war were silenced at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month.
My prayers and best wishes,
Fr. Philip Edge - Vicar