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Covering the villages of Wilsden and Harecroft

The Armistice was signed and the guns stopped. The feeling among the soldiers was relief, profound weariness and anti-climax. The process of sending the servicemen home began, although they were retained on reserve in case war started again. Some Wilsden men were transferred to the Labour Corps to work on rebuilding the devastated towns and villages, exhume bodies from the battlefields into cemeteries, or travel on into Germany as part of the Army of Occupation.

It took another six months of negotiations to conclude the Peace Treaty which was then registered at the League of Nations in October 1919.

     

Treaty of Versailles, the most important of the Peace Treaties, signed 28 June 1919

Photo Wikipaedia

By autumn 1920 nearly all the Wilsden men had returned home. Their jobs, which they had expected to be kept open for them, did not always materialise. Life was not as it had been before. The families who had lost loved ones had to cope with the return of the survivors living in the same street, working in the same place, shopping in the village shops.

Those same survivors, who had spent up to four years living outside in primitive conditions, had to re-acclimatise to normal living.

Life-changing injuries to some of the Wilsden men were a permanent reminder of the recent horrors. Newman Robinson lost an arm and a leg. Sam Wright was blinded. Aretas Hardaker spent much of the rest of his life in institutions, and many others were afflicted with nightmares and flash-backs. Few talked about their experiences.

A new category of honorary ‘aunts’ developed among those women whose hopes of marrying and having families had died with their young men.

In many cases, families of servicemen continue to live in or near Wilsden to this day. Each year, during the Remembrance Day Service held at Wilsden Cenotaph, we promise that

“We will remember them”

 

 

 Wilsden Parish Council would like to thank Tim Callaghan for compiling the weekly notice of news, pictures and historical notes for the feature ‘This week In WW1’. All the previous bulletins are available to read on the Parish Council website. 
http://www.wilsdenparishcouncil.gov.uk/wilsden-harecroft/this-week-in-ww1





11th November – At 05.10 hours, in a railway carriage outside the French town of Compiégne, German delegates signed the armistice. Under its terms Germany would evacuate immediately from Belgium, France, Luxembourg and Alsace-Lorraine. The German army would surrender 5,000 heavy guns and artillery pieces, 25,000 machine-guns, 3,000 trench mortars and 1,700 aeroplanes. Allied troops would occupy all of Western Germany up to the west bank of the Rhine, and would additionally hold three major bridgeheads over the Rhine at Mainz, Coblenz and Cologne. The Allies would be given 5,000 German railway engines and 150,000 railway wagons, as well as 5,000 lorries, to be delivered “within 36 days”. All of Germany’s submarines, and much of her navy was also to be surrendered.

The news of the signing of the armistice was immediately telephoned and telegraphed to all the Allied commanders –

“Hostilities will cease on the entire front November 11th at 11.00am French time”

Throughout the morning of the 11th November, fighting continued. The headquarters of the American First and Second armies received the news of the armistice at 6.30 in the morning – the commanders ordered the fighting to go on until 11.00. A British brigade was ordered to seize a bridge over the river Dendre in France to prevent the retreating Germans destroying it – the orders came through at 9.30, to be completed before 11.00. The final British soldier to be killed in action was Private George Ellison, from Leeds. He had enlisted in 1914 and was killed at 9.30 on the 11th November. He is buried in the cemetery at St Symphorien – where, just feet away but by complete coincidence, Private John Parr, the first British casualty of the war, was buried. They lie close together because the area around Mons was the scene of the first and last actions of the war. At the village of Ville-sur-Haine, just east of Mons, a Canadian soldier, Private George Price, waiting in the trenches with his platoon for the ending of the war, was hit and killed by a German sniper. He died at 2 minutes to 11.00, the last of over 10,000 soldiers of all nationalities killed or wounded after the armistice had been signed, and the last man of the war to die in action.

At eleven o’clock “There came a second of expectant silence, and then a curious rippling sound, which observers far behind the front likened to the noise of a light wind. It was the sound of men cheering”

Crowds that in London, Berlin, Vienna and Paris had cheered the announcement of war in 1914, now celebrated peace. The war was over. It had lasted four years, three months, and one week. Total casualties caused directly by the war are estimated at 37.5 million. Over 7 million combatants had been maimed for life. The celebrations and jubilation faded quickly. As Winston Churchill later recalled–

“Too much blood had been spilt. Too much life-essence had been consumed. The gaps in every home were too wide and empty. The shock of an awakening and the sense of disillusion followed swiftly on the poor rejoicing with which hundreds of millions celebrated the achievement of their heart’s desire. There still remained the satisfactions of safety assured, of peace restored, of honour preserved, of the comforts of fruitful industry, of the homecoming of the soldiers; but these were in the background; and with them was mingled the ache for those who would never come home”

  1. Harrison Singleton

Pte. Singleton, James Harrison   63086      2nd Garrison Battalion   Northumberland Fusiliers

 

Harrison was born at the beginning of 1897, at Daisy Hill in Allerton. He was the younger son of Clara and Benjamin Singleton, a stonemason, having an older brother William and two younger sisters, Miriam and Annie. By 1911 the family had moved to 32, Main Street, Wilsden. Benjamin had become a comber in a worsted spinning mill and Harrison had joined him as a spinner. By the time he enlisted into the Northumberland Fusiliers in Keighley in December 1916, he was working in the combing department of Holden’s in Bradford.

 Initially Harrison’s battalion was sent to India, but in 1918, it was posted to Mesopotamia (we now call it Iraq). There were no roads, transport was by boats along the rivers.

 “Now virtually forgotten, the British Army also fought in Mesopotamia against the Turks, originally with the intention of defending British oil interests. Another disease-ridden campaign, the Turks finally capitulated. Extremes of temperature (120o F was common); arid desert and regular flooding, flies, mosquitoes and vermin all led to appalling levels of sickness and death through disease. Medical arrangements were quite shocking with wounded men spending up to two weeks on boats before reaching any kind of hospital.”

‘The Long, Long Trail’ website

 The Turks signed the armistice on 1 November 1918.

 Harrison died of broncho-pneumonia just four days later on 5 November 1918, aged 21, and is buried in Basra War Cemetery, Mesopotamia (now Iraq)  Grave No.  I. S. 12

Harrison’s parents were by now living at 16 Chapel Row. His elder brother William also lived at Chapel Row, with wife Annie. They called their son William Harrison Singleton and he was born in July 1917 whilst Harrison was on active service. He grew up in the village, and like his uncle, he too was known by his middle name -  Harrison Singleton.

 

 

 

 

 

4th November – In the early morning, whilst leading the 5th Manchester Regiment across the Sambre and Oise Canal in northern France, the poet Wilfred Own was shot and killed. He was 25 years old. Owen had been resentful that the Allied leaders had turned down the earlier German peace overtures. Writing to his fellow poet Siegfried Sassoon on the 29th October (they had met and become friends whilst convalescing from ‘Shell-shock’, or post-traumatic stress disorder), Owen wrote that “The civilians here [in France]are a wretched, dirty, crawling community, afraid of us, some of them, and no wonder after the shelling we gave them three weeks ago. Did I tell you that five healthy girls died of fright in one night at the last village? The people in England and France who thwarted a peaceable retirement of the enemy from these areas are therefore now sacrificing aged French peasants and charming French peasants to our guns. Shells made by women in Birmingham are at this very moment burying little children who live not very far from here”. Owen’s mother received the telegram informing her of her son’s death on Armistice Day, as the church bells of Shrewsbury rang in celebration.

           

Wilfred Owen pictured in 1916. Image from the National Portrait Gallery, London

 

30th October – Aboard the British battleship Agamemnon, off the Greek island of Mudros, Allied and Turkish commanders signed an armistice, ending the war in the Middle East. In Europe, the Hapsburg Austro-Hungarian Empire was collapsing, even as it sought a peace settlement. Czechoslovakia declared independence on the 28th October, Croatia – as a ‘National Sovereign State of the Slovenes, Croats and Serbs’ on the 29th. The German-named cities of Laibach and Agram changed their names to the Slavic Zagreb and Ljubljana. On October 30th, Hungary declared its own independence, ending the Austro-Hungarian Empire that had existed since 1867. The Hungarians used their new independence to begin their own armistice negotiations with the French forces in Serbia. A Hungarian infantry regiment stationed at the Imperial Palace in Vienna deserted their posts and made their own way back to Hungary. On the 3rd November, the Allies agreed to the German requests for an armistice on the Western Front. However, fighting there continued. The Allied High Command, suspicious of the German will to conclude the armistice, made plans to invade Bavaria in Spring 1919.