Wednesday 22 October 2008 by Annette Gaykema. 2 comments
Personal Stories, Collection, letters, diaries

We are commemorating the 90th Anniversary of the Armistice this year, which presents a timely opportunity to look at what soldiers were doing on the 11th of November throughout the duration of the First World War. The soldiers go about their duties not knowing that in the future, it would be the special day to remember those who fought and died for our country in war and armed conflict.

Letters and diaries held in the Memorial’s collections bring to light what soldiers were doing on the 11th of November and how they felt about their current situation.   As would be expected, many of the diaries contain general entries about the weather and warfare.

The following excerpts are taken from diaries held in the Memorial’s collection for the 11th November and span the entirety of the First World War. It culminates with an entry on the day of the Armistice – 11th of November, 1918 - from Gunner Keith Dowling who was writing a normal letter home when he, and consequently the letter, were interrupted with the news of the war ending.

11 November 1914

Captain Walther states that “a pneumonia patient died today” and was buried at sundown. He mentions that at the funeral messages of sympathy “were received from other boats” and the “last post was played”. The Last Post is the bugle call that signifies the end of the day’s activities. It is also sounded at commemorative services such as Remembrance Day to indicate that the soldier has gone to his final rest. Sadly, Captain Walther was one of the soldiers who did not return from the war as he died of wounds in July 1916.

(Diary of Captain Bernhardt Herman Walther. PR00937)

 

11 November 1915

Captain Walther and Corporal Beveridge mention how awful the weather was on the Western Front on this day. Walther wrote that it was very “squally last night” and “cold right throughout today”. While Beveridge mentioned that it blew their roof off at 3am and “let a bit of rain in”. The roof was laced down before breakfast but he does mention that it rained fairly hard all day while “various animals” ran around the dugout. It appeared to be a special day for both men as Beveridge received his first stripe and Walther attended a “little entertainment” outside the colonel’s dugout which was provided for the officers after they had had their tea. Unfortunately Corporal Roy Beveridge was killed on the 12th of November 1916. The entry on the 11th of November for that year was his last diary entry.

(Diary of Captain Bernhardt Herman Walther. PR00937)

(Diary of Corporal Roy Beveridge. 2DRL/0325)

 

11 November 1916

Sergeant de Vine notes that the sun “shone for about 5 hours, ground much drier, rather cold”. Then mentions an interesting event that happened that day: “an aeroplane fight took place above our heads during the afternoon. The German Taube fell in flames just inside their lines, our boys cheered our aviator when he returned”.

(Diary of Sergeant Apcar Leslie de Vine. 1DRL/0240)

 

11 November 1917

Lieutenant Fullard, who at the time was “on command” in England, starts each diary entry with a running sequence of the days since he left home. The 11th of November 1917 was his 730th day away. He writes that the day was “rather fine, nippy”. He went to Church Parade in the morning and spent the evening writing letters. It was this night that he wrote his “102nd letter home”. In France, Sergeant de Vine and his battalion were relieved from the trenches. They marched out at 8am “to Ypres through the Menin Gate” where they continued on to a camp near Ouderdown. He managed to get a bath during the afternoon which was his “first wash in 10 days”.

(Diary of Lieutenant Arthur Frederick Fullard. PR01029)

(Diary of Sergeant Apcar Leslie de Vine. 1DRL/0240)

 

11 November 1918

On the 11th of November, 1918, Gunner Dowling was writing to his mother about the weather, the letters he had received and being a guard at the “prisoners of war cage” when the letter is interrupted with news of the Armistice: By JOVE!!! Crikey!!! What shall I say? We’ve just had a breathless bombardier ... rush into the dugout, fall over the bed at the end and shout out some glorious news – can’t repeat it, as it’s strictly against orders to mention the subject ... but you first note the date! Only hope this is dinkum as he swears it is! What a godsent Xmas box for the world!

 

2DRL/0259. Gunner Keith Dowling's letter to his mother. 2DRL/0259. Gunner Keith Dowling's letter to his mother.

 

The excitement portrayed in this final letter reflects the celebration and joy of men and women all over the world. 

The Remembrance Day National Ceremony provides details of the event to be held this year in commemoration of Remembrance Day at the Australian War Memorial.

 

Comments

Andrea

Thank you for a great post

Deeleea

"What a God Sent Xmas Box for the World" What a fabulous phrase! Great post Annette!!