Adjusting to life after 'war to end all wars'

IF you were to ask most people today when the First World War ended, they would probably reply with the answer the 11 November 1918.

However, the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month did not see an official end to the Great War (as it was known at the time), but marked a formal ceasefire.

Treaty negotiations at the French city of Versailles, between the Allied Powers and Germany went on long into the following year, as the Germans tried desperately – and ultimately unsuccessfully – to avoid the potentially crippling war reparations demanded by the victors.

The peace treaty was eventually signed on the 28 June 1919, exactly five years after the event which sparked the global conflict – the assassination of the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, on a state visit to Sarajevo. The signing of the Treaty of Versailles, in the Galerie des Glaces of the Palace of Versailles, finally brought the “war to end all wars” to an official conclusion.

The British Government had set up a peace committee on 9 May 1919, chaired by Lord Curzon, the Foreign Secretary. The committee outlined a lavish celebration for the country running over four days in early August.

In the end, these extravagant plans were overtaken by events.

The signing of the final peace treaty at the end of June meant that arrangements had to be brought forward. King George V proclaimed that Sunday 6 June 1919 was to be a day of general thanksgiving, and it was decided that peace celebrations should be held on 19 July.

Andover held its own service on Sunday, 6 July at St Mary’s Church, where all denominations came together. A procession of dignitaries, headed by the Municipal Band, formed at the town hall (known today as the Guildhall) and walked to the church, where the service started with the National Anthem.

After a hymn and the lessons, the vicar, the Rev Walter Edward Smith – who himself had lost son during the war – read the first official “Roll of the Dead” for the town, stating: “They had died so others might live”.

That first list contained 102 names, all but one of which made it onto the final memorial. The additional casualty was John Thomas Hatch, Rifleman 1826 of the 11th Battalion London Regiment, known commonly as the Finsbury Rifles. He was also listed on the temporary war memorial which was erected in Andover High Street two weeks later.

Thomas was born in Holloway, London in 1889 and after joining the Army was posted to Andover.

He died on the 22nd October 1914, aged 25, while carrying out his military duties at Andover Junction. He was accidentally struck by a train, suffering fatal head injuries. His death in the town seems to be his only link with Andover and this is probably why he was not included on the permanent memorial when it was finally erected in 1920.

After the church service the congregation spilled out into the streets and, following behind the band, made their way to the Market Place where the Mayor gave a short address, before the crowd dispersed.

On the following Friday the Andover Advertiser reproduced the first Roll of Honour in full. In the same paper Rev Smith wrote: “Sir, I am glad to hear that you intend to print the list of our noble dead, as they were read out in the church. I hope that the list as you have it is very nearly complete, but probably there are still some omissions. As this list will probably form the basis of the permanent record which will be handed down in several forms to posterity, may I very earnestly request that the name of any Andover man who died in war service, whether killed or of disease, and who is omitted from the list, may be sent to me.”

His letter did the trick, because less than two weeks later, when a temporary memorial was erected in front of the town hall, a further 70 men had been added to that toll.

The Rev Smith, it would appear, became the official keeper of the Roll of the Dead for the town.

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