Little optimism for victory

First World War
First World War

Despite the rapid advances being made in France and Flanders by British and allied forces, following the gradual collapse of the German Army after the Battle of Amiens on August 8, 1918, there was no optimism in the High Command of the allied nations that Germany would be defeated by the end of the year.

Sir Douglas Haig, the British Commander-in-Chief on the Western Front cautioned against too much bullish reporting of allied advances and German withdrawals.

Public ignorance today of the scale of the allies’ victory in the final ‘hundred days’ is born more of the swift nature of the end game to the war and the lack of publicity of place names; unlike the sanguine reputations of the Somme, Passchendaele and Verdun that were seared onto the memory.

The Allies had plans for major fighting through to an estimated final defeat of Germany and her allies in mid-1919, when the rapidly expanding US forces could be brought into the field of battle.

In fact, the collapse of morale in Germany and defections of soldiers, coupled with political unrest, and widespread starvation caused by the stranglehold of the allied blockade, meant Germany and Austria-Hungary would seek an armistice in October. ‘Peace feelers’, initially made through President Wilson of the US were rebuffed by the British and French governments, who insisted on the complete exhaustion of the enemy’s ability to continue the war. However, an Armistice was negotiated on very harsh terms for the cessation of fighting at 11am French time on November 11, 1918.

Now, as we prepare to mark the centenary of that Armistice, the Northumbria Project is finalizing its own plans for a week of commemoration and a review of its work over seven years. The Memorial Hall in Wallsend will feature exhibitions and a programme of talks from Monday, November 5, to Sunday 11. Full details on the project website: northumbriaworldwarone.co.uk

Articles of War – a compilation of 150 articles written for this column over seven years was launched on September 25. The book is available from North Tyneside libraries, the project Workroom, Room B9 - Linskill Community Centre and Keel Row Bookshop, Preston Road, North Shields.

The Memorial Hall, Wallsend, will be the venue for a concert at 7pm on Friday, November 9, to mark the end of the war and the second phase of the project. The concert is titled – Our Journey’s End – after the famous dramatic work of RC Sherriff. A wide ranging programme of music and stories will fill an evening of entertainment and reflection on the project’s work. Tickets (£7) for the concert are available from the Memorial Hall, Frank Street, and the Project workroom at Room B9 – Linskill Community Centre.