Tomorrow’s 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War is a time to reflect on the need for countries to work together to ensure nothing like it ever happens again. The edited extracts below, from two articles published by The Scotsman on 11 and 12 November 1918, give a flavour of the feelings of the time.
From 11 November: “With the fall of the great fabric of militarism, new opportunities and new responsibilities come before Europe and the world. The war has strengthened and sanctified the bonds that bind together the nations of the British family, and also those that unite the peoples who have been fighting side by side in the cause of freedom and humanity. We can never forget the priceless debt we owe to the Dominions overseas, to India, and to our Allies. But through carelessness or ignorance, or malice, even links welded with blood and fire can be dissolved. Unless within the Empire, and within the United Kingdom, we are prepared to continue ‘to sink sectional interests, partisan claims and class and creed differences in pursuit of a common purpose’, to ‘banish faction’ until the great British realm is thoroughly safe, the fruits of our labours and sacrifices will be in danger of being lost.
It will take generations and centuries, says Mr Lloyd George, to develop the great prospects which, in this hour of deliverance from the sinister spell of militarism, have been opened to all the nations of the earth. But unless all ranks and classes among us appreciate their duties and their opportunities, and unless the new situation be wisely and firmly handled by our statesmen, Britain may miss her share of future greatness.”
From 12 November: “A great shadow has passed from the world. The House of Commons never interpreted the feelings of the nation more aptly than yesterday when it put aside all business and went to St Margaret’s, the home church of Parliament, to give reverent thanks for the deliverance of our time from a great peril. There was much rejoicing in the land yesterday; there was beneath it a deep current of solemn feeling. Light-heartedness in the present is restrained by the sombe recollection of a past scarcely yet out of anxious thought.
A few days ago, when a false report was circulated that an armistice had been signed, Mr James M Beck, the American writer, gave the people of Great Britain praise for their self-restraint in the moment of victory. ‘You,’ he said addressing a gathering of London citizens, ‘who have gone through the darkest hours your Empire has ever known, you who have come out of the depths show not a single sign of boastfulness or undue self-glorification. Britain was nobly great in the hour of blackest disaster; she is supremely great in the hour of victory.’
The people of this country knew their backs were at the wall six months ago, but they did not doubt, it was not in their nature to flinch, any more than it was in the temper of our soldiers to harbour a thought of final failure. And the rebound from one period to the other so little disturbs our daily routine that it leaves an observer so capable as Mr Beck the impression of the impassive stoicism of the British character.
But that stoicism would, it is safe to say, have been ruffled if the terms imposed upon Germany had been less severe than they are.
The war is ended; the Versailles Council have ensured that blessing for the world. It is peace, and not merely the suspension of the conflict, that was celebrated yesterday. Germany is vanquished. She cannot raise the sword again.”