Thursday, 28 June 2012

Is it 1918 or 1919, or even 2010?

One question that gets asked often, either in national or local press, and also when the 'project' has been shown at 'Family History' events is 'why does that memorial say the War ended in 1918 and this one say 1919'?

In answering this question it must be stated before-hand that neither of these dates is incorrect but at the same time they are both 'right'.

Between 5:12 and 5:20 (Paris time) on the morning of Friday, 11th November, 1918, a number of signatures were signed on a piece of paper that heralded the silencing of the guns at 11:00am later that morning; thus bringing to an end the 'war to end all wars'.

Thus, the first part of the question above would seem to be true. In reality however, all the Armistice was was a 'cease-fire' to be held by all combatants. The terms of the Armistice dictated that German commanders were to remove their forces from France, Belgium, Luxembourg and Alsace-Lorraine, while at the same time impounding their U-boats and surface fleets; once back on German soil, these troops were to subsequently move from the west side of the River Rhine to allow its occupation by British and US troops, with 30km radius bridgeheads being formed on the eastern side at the cities of Mainz, Koblenz and Cologne, which would also be occupied. These and other stipulations were to be checked on a monthly basis, and signed by all parties to that effect until a more permanent treaty had been drawn up.

Following six-months of negotiations at the Paris Peace Conference by politicians and statesmen from over 30 countries, a 'war guilt' was imposed and stiff financial penalties placed upon the Central Powers, chiefly Germany. This document came to be called the 'Treaty of Versailles' and while in the eyes of the Allies would make Germany pay a heavy price for the causement of hostilities - it was seen by some as being severely harsh and concern was expressed that it may lead to further conflict, both politically and militarily.

The 'Treaty of Versailles' stipulated that the German nation would have to pay reparations to the Allies; as well as ceding territory in Africa, Europe and the Far East. Nevertheless the 'Treaty' was signed on Saturday, 28th June, 1919, a date which is seen by some as the 'official' date of the ending of the 'Great War'; in the UK a number of 'peace day' celebrations were held, with the one in Goole taking place at the Victoria Pleasure Grounds. (Coincidentally the date also marked the fifth anniversary of the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, thus bringing about all the 'ingredients' for the War to take place.)

Therefore the 'second' part of the question would deem to have been answered correctly, but why the year '2010' in the title of this post?

In 1921 the total amount of the reparations placed upon Germany was assessed at 132 billion Marks (then $31.4 billion or £6.6 billion, roughly equivalent to US $442 billion or UK £284 billion in 2012); this figure was deemed excessive by some economists, especially in regard to the fact that it would take until 1988 to pay this sum off. Due to the subsequent rise of the Nazi Party, the various violations by Germany of the 'Treaty' throughout the 1930s along with the effects of the 'Second Great War' ultimately meant that the last payment from Germany, of about £95m, was not made until 4th October, 2010. Therefore it could be said that the official ramifications of the ending of the War were thus concluded on this date.

As stated at the start of this post, neither of the dates of 1918 or 1919 is incorrect and both can be claimed to signify the end of the 'Great War'.

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We welcome any comments about the work being undertaken by this Group. If you feel that you can add anything about any of the 'Street Shrines', or have information relating to the men named on Goole Cenotaph, then do please get in touch.