An Ultimate Absurdity

Among history magazines, the BBC History is among the top in my opinion. Of course, they are from a British point of view (ya think?) but what they say is of interest and merit to me. (As an aside it is interesting to me to read about the British point of view of our American Revolution, or, as many in Britain call it, the War of Rebellion).

For the last 4 years, they have talked about the First World War. They have reprinted letters of British servicemen who, from that same time 100 years ago, from 1914 to 1918, described their conditions for that moment in time. While we in America suffered, it was nothing like what the British and French lost.

I found it interesting, and a bit sad, that the 100 year anniversary of the end went by virtually without comment at least in America. To think that the first world war spawned the second, redrew the map of Europe, and gave birth to both the Communists and Nazis, going by virtually unnoticed.

Lex wrote a piece on how with time, even the most cataclysmic events tend to be put into the recesses. He was referring to December 7th, but you can fill in the blank for any momentous event from more than a few years ago in time that put our country  on a different arc. How much is Pearl Harbor remembered on a December 7th with the recesses of time?

I mentioned before that a great uncle of mine was killed exactly 1 month to the Armistice, October 11th.

Unfortunately the BBC History is not on the web to link, but they were giving the circumstances where the Armistice came about.

“The armistice agreement would emerge from a railroad carriage stationed in the forest of Compiegne.  As Monday arrived, Germany’s delegates were close to accepting the armistice terms. At 2:05 AM, nearly 3 days since the talks began, the German delegation stated that they were ready for a fresh round of discussions, which began at 2:15 AM. Thirty-four terms were read out by Maxime Weygand on behalf of allied commander-in-chief, Marshal Ferdinand Foch. The armistice was signed at 5:12 AM, amended to read 5 AM. The first of the terms was “Cessation of hostilities by land and in the air six hours after the signing of the armistice” (the cessation at sea was immediate), so the act of signature set the timer ticking for the end of the war – like a game of football or rugby, the war now had a fixed duration…

The last victim 

…And, in fact, many more men died in the cold and fog until 11 AM. One victim was George Edwin Ellison of the Royal Irish Lancers, a middle-aged man who served right from the start of the war. Believed to be the last British soldier killed in action, he died at Mons, where he started fighting in August 1914. He is buried near the first British soldier killed in action in the war…”

What stood out for me was the fact that both sides knew the war was ending at 11 AM, with no point in fighting for gain, yet, “like a rugby match“, both continued fighting.

Makes no sense to me.



Filed under History

2 responses to “An Ultimate Absurdity

  1. That same railway carriage was used by Hitler to receive the surrender of the French in June 1940. The humiliation of The Treaty of Versailles ran deep in those cold and twisted fibres of his.

    • Bill Brandt

      I will have reread a link that was sent me – it explains in detail the humiliation that the German soldier felt about being “sold out”. I think that the first world war was the definitive event of the 20th century, of which the reverberations are still being felt.

      My mother is a history buff and she says that the Kaiser hated the English because of his withered arm. (Bloodlines through Victoria). To which I thought what an irrational hatred – an entire country because of one’s family?).

      I don’t know if that is true.

      I still don’t fully understand the reasons for the first world war. Archduke Ferdinand was merely the fuse but what was the powder keg?

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