The armistice of November 11th 1918 marked the end of the First World War. There was jubilation and joy throughout Europe. The fighting was over. This was to be the first Christmas in peace time since 1913.
For many however, it was not the end of the war. People continued to die after the eleventh of the eleventh November 1918. Servicemen continued to die from their wounds. One veteran of WW1 recounted how the best piano player in his regiment sat down at a piano in a newly liberated village; he lifted the piano lid and was blown to pieces. Retreating German soldiers had set booby-traps that continued to kill and maim advancing Allied soldiers for months to come. Unexploded ordinance in fields continued to claim lives for many years.
Most British soldiers returned home to their families. But many remained in France and Belgium to assist the transition from war to peace. There was much to do as refugees returned home, and as the British army dismantled the infrastructure of war. It took a long time for all the prisoners of war to be released.
The conclusion of the First World War did not solve all the world’s problems. Hunger and lack of resources did not end. Social and political unrest continued. Across the world further conflicts broke out for a whole range of different reasons.
And so, that first Christmas of the inter war years, provided a very different experience for families. Some welcomed home their loved ones, others received news of their death despite the end of hostilities. Some were able to celebrate Christmas together, others and to wait until 1920 or even 1921. Britain enjoyed peace, whereas other countries suffered renewed conflict. Britain saw fresh imports of food and resources, Germany continued to face a naval blockade.
I was talking this through with a friend recently, and we agreed that we had been a most blessed generation. As young men we had not been sent to fight in a war. We had not experienced our country being attacked by a powerful armed state.
This Christmas, of 2018, will be one where we will be especially thankful that we can enjoy good food in good company in the absence of war.
I wish you a peaceful Christmas,