Intro by Peter Doyle
ARRSE Rating
3.5 Mushroom Heads
As the title indicates this is a photographic record of the times around November 1918. The book itself is small in size being just 7” x 7.5” inches – not quite pocket size but not normal book size. This format suits the content though so please don’t class this as a criticism.

The photos start slightly before the Armistice to set the scene then a lot of the pictures are not of the day of 11/11/18, although there are several from that time, but are of the period immediately following. Pictures of the signing hall in Versailles and various important officers and politicians as they arrive/leave.

A large portion of the book is dedicated to the Victory Parades held in 1919 and 1920to celebrate the Victory. Lots of long range photographs of columns of men marching through London with attendant huge crowds. Field Marshal Haig features in many of the pictures leading troops or taking salutes at various parades. Beatty is pictured leading the Naval contingents. To be honest, as most of the photos are long range and just show columns of men stretching into the distance they don’t do a lot for me. I suppose we have to take in to account the available technology of the day.

More interesting to me are the pictures which have more of a human interest. Pictures of soldiers encamped in London parks getting their kit ready for parade for instance. And the photographs of street parties all enjoying the day where it is noticeable that there are very few men present. Another photograph that strikes me is the one of ladies preparing to hand out demob suits to soldiers as they are being discharged. Each soldier had a choice between a suit or a cash sum of £2 12/6 – the caption said a large portion chose the suits.

Finally there is the remembrance element of the Victory celebrations. Photographs of the Unknown Warrior being borne out of Dover Docks then by train to London with photographs from Paris as they too bury their Unknown Warrior at the same time as Britain’s. Scenes from around the country of traffic being stopped and work ceasing during the 2 minutes Silence to mark the moment in 1920 as the Cenotaph is unveiled are very poignant.

While the book, by its very nature, jumps about a bit it is well structured:

Introduction - A good background to the reasons for the book and the source of the pictures.

Chapter 1 – end of Hostilities

Chapter 2 – Celebration – the various Victory Parades, street parties and parties held in public parks to celebrate Victory

Chapter 3 - The Fallen – well that is what it is all about really. Ironically one of the items is a letter sent to a family informing them that their son had been killed and expressing the sympathies of the King. In this case though there had been a mistake and the subject of the notification survived the war.

Chapter 4 – Commemoration. The Unknown Warrior, the Cenotaphs both in London and Manchester and various commemoration parades throughout the country, including a trip back to France to remember comrades. The photograph of Albert Square, Manchester on 11 November 1935 is astounding. There are thousands of people in the photograph, so many people remembering events of 17 years before not realising that in just four years it would be back to square one.

The last two photographs in the book are also telling, the first a war cemetery in France on 11 November 1939 with two British soldiers paying their respects and finally a photograph of the “Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red” with four Yeoman Warders passing through the Poppy Display at the Tower of London in 2014. Here I think the publishers have missed a trick as the photograph, in my point of view, would have been better had it been in colour rather than black and white. Probably done to keep in line with the other photographs in the book, but a lost opportunity.

This would be a good book to have on your shelf but not one I would have gone out of the way to buy. Certainly, as we approach the 100th anniversary of the Armistice of 1918 then this is very appropriate and I do congratulate The History Press for bringing this out.

3.5 Mr MRHs

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