Reflections on war and warfare: Week 37 (10 – 16 November 2014)

As of March 2014, we are posting weekly extracts of writings on war and warfare drawn from our manuscript and printed collections. Ranging from items on the Maratha wars to the Second World War, the extracts will reflect opinions both from the battle front and from those at home. The quotes tie in with the exhibition ‘When “the days of conquest are passed”: reflections on war and warfare’, currently on display at the Special Collections Gallery.

10 November 1813 Advance towards France
With the capture of the city of San Sebastian in September 1813, Wellington’s Anglo-Allied army were in a position to push Marshal Soult’s forces towards the French-Spanish frontier. As they pursued the French out of Spain they achieved further success at the Battle of the Bidassoa on 7 October, and the Battle of Nivelle on 10 November. As noted in the below passage, the French suffered a further defeat with the surrender of the city of Pamplona to the Spanish on 30 October.

“The fall of Pamplona must have relieved you from some anxiety, considering the state of the season. Your advance into France will come at a very seasonable time, although Buonaparte has effected his escape to Mayence. It is impossible to judge by the French papers with what force he has been able to retreat. There cannot be any doubt of Blücher having defeated part of the army on the 21st.”

MS 61 WP1/379 Letter from Henry Bathurst, third Earl Bathurst, Secretary for War and the Colonies, Downing Street, to Field Marshal Arthur Wellesley, first Marquis of Wellington, 10 November 1813

11 November 1918 Germany signs armistice, formally ending the First World War
Known as the Armistice of Compiègne, the agreement was the official signal of World War One ending, after four years. On 29 September 1918 Kaiser Wilhelm II and Imperial Chancellor Count Georg von Herling were informed by the German Supreme Army Command that the military situation facing Germany was hopeless. Quartermaster Erich Ludendorff claimed that he could not promise that the front would hold for another 24 hours, and heavily recommended Germany to accept the fourteen points made by of US President Wilson in January 1918. Such points related to the withdrawal of German troops to behind their own borders, a promise of reparations, the disposition of German warships and submarines, and the discontinuance of hostilities. Despite the Germans registering their formal protest at the harshness of the Allied terms, they were not in a position to refuse the armistice. This was due to the abdication of the Kaiser, and the threat of revolution looming in various parts of Germany. Thus, the armistice went into effect on 11am on 11 November 1918, marking a triumph for the Allies and a defeat for Germany.

“The child had gone to school, Amy to the shop – I reading a novel ‘The Game’ by J. London, when bang went the maroons, and guns and rockets. Alone in the house, I could only guess what it portended – a raid! Soon Amy came along and disabused me. The war is over! The war is over! The flags flutter from every house; Con brought home one for her half-holiday – W.T. has a big one at his shop. Armistice signed at 5am today, Sidney spent his half-holiday in going to Sutton to Ansells – I persuaded to go down to W.T.S for a drink of wine. We shut our shop ‘in consequence of victory’; the high road full of cheering crowds – all carry flags.”

MS 168 AJ 217/14 Journal of Samuel Rich, 11 November 1918

12 November 1939 Nazi violence against the Jewish people

“Mr. Bruno spoke on the music of the Reformgemeinde [reform community] at Berlin – destroyed by Nazi gangsters on the night of Nov 9/10 last year. He spoke well – the whole thing was most moving. There were only 25 present, mostly Germans. […] All the Germans present (men) had been in concentration camps. Their wives present. Mrs Shapski told me quite simply that she had walked from Smithfields that morning:- yet she had been a “very wealthy” woman! But no fussing. These are the real people.”

MS 168 AJ 217/35 Journal of Samuel Rich, 12 November 1939


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