by Guy Cuthbertson
New Haven: Yale University Press, 2018. Pp. vi, 298+.
Illus., notes, biblio., index. $27.50. ISBN: 0300233388
Armistice Day Across the Globe
The biographer of Wilfred Owen, for the centennial of the end of the Great War, Prof. Cuthbertson (Liverpool Hope) takes a look at how the Armistice with Germany on November 11, 1918 was received around the world, on an almost hour-by-hour basis. He makes a point of noting that this armistice, although the fourth in six weeks, following those with Bulgaria (Sept. 29), the Ottoman Empire (Oct. 31), and Austria-Hungary (Nov. 3), but is the one most celebrated to the present by most of the nations involved in the war.
Cuthbertson covers the many celebrations across the globe and time zones, in Australia, New Zealand, and Japan the armistice actually coming on November 12th. While notably among the victors there was great joy tempered by relief, while among the losers, it was mostly celebration of relief if not greeted by fear of the future. He also reminds us that despite hours of anticipation of the armistice, some men still died fighting in the final moments of hostilities, the result of poor communications, bureaucratic inertia, or sheer bloody-mindedness, in which regard Cuthbertson lets Pershing off lightly for his insistence on offensive operations right up to the proverbial 11th hour.
Cuthbertson also gives us insights into how and why people found the armistice disappointing, most notably recent recruits in the Allied armies, and many Americans, who believed that they had missed their chance to do their bit and gain some glory. He then looks at the postwar development of armistice observances, and, of course, ultimately comes full circle, from the Armistice of 1918 in the rail car in the forest of Compiènge to that of 1940 in same place and rail car.
Peace at Last is a good read for those interested in the Great War or in postwar commemoration and memorialization.
Note: Peace at Last is also available in audio- and e-editions