Sunday, 14 May 2017

Two pictures and four years of war .................

We are on Oxford Street sometime on November 11 1918 amongst the crowds celebrating the end of the Great War.

Many standing there will have their own personal story of the war and for some the euphoria of Armistice Day will be tinged with the loss of someone close to them.

But on that Monday just under a century ago there is no doubting the relief that it was all over, a feeling echoed again just twenty-seven years later on the evening of VE Day and summed up by the diary entry of a young woman who wrote “tonight everyone I know will be safe.”*

The day was well documented as was August 4th four years earlier and contrary to the received account of the declaration of war the mood was not one of universal acclamation.

Across the country in the run up to the war there had been opposition expressed in letters from church organisations, newspaper editorials and motions passed at trade union conferences, and on the streets there was not always that spontaneous outburst for a war with Germany.

Robert Roberts remembered that in Salford “there was no great burst of patriotic fervour.  Little groups of men and women together stood talking earnestly on the shop or at the street corner, stunned a little by the enormity of events.”

And yet once the war had begun recruitment centres across the country were overwhelmed by volunteers, so much so that here in Manchester many wanting to join the Colours were turned away and in the first months of the war the City raised a full eight battalions of volunteers complementing the battalions of reservists who had already been sent to the Front.

And that neatly brings us to the second picture which is dated August 4th 1914 and was taken in Brook Street in Macclesfield with a group of men from the Cheshire Yeomanry.

Together they span the Great War and I am grateful to David Harrop from whose collection theyare from.

Pictures, Armistice Day in Manchester November 11 1918 and August 4 1914 with the Cheshire Yeomanry at Macclesfield, courtesy of David Harrop

*Of course the war in the East against Japan would go on till the August and it would be many more months before my family learned of the death of my uncle who had died in a POW camp in 1943.

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