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Digital Subscriptions > Family Tree > Family Tree November 2018 > Your letters

Your letters

The Armistice remembered in the words of one who was there
An excerpt from Howard Palmer’s typed up memories of the First World War

Thoughts on the Armistice…

This is not so much a letter from me, as one directly from my great-uncle, who wrote his memoirs and speaks to us across 100 years of history. Great-uncle, Howard Palmer, was in Brighton on embarkation leave when the Armistice was declared in November 1918. As a gunner, he could recognise the rumbles from across the Channel – so he ‘heard’ the guns go silent! He wrote down his thoughts that day and they make profound reading.

It seemed more like spring than winter, for there was a change in tone of life as finally the Armistice was announced. The fighting would terminate at 11.00 on November 11th, 1918. People seemed inclined to go out and stay out, and in the morning I was on the sea front in hazy sun and a quiet wind, just waiting. When the moment came and passed, nothing happened. But the faint distant rumble was stilled. The traffic had stopped, only the sea continued its ceaseless washing of the shore. The war was over.

I did not move. Long I looked out over the water while past scenes of death and danger came into my mind. Where were the men, and the boys quickly become men, who had flocked to the colours, followed the bands, drilled, fought, died? They didn’t come back, those thousands who marched down Remembrance Hill to the harbour, the boat, The Line.

Many, many didn’t come back, their resting place on foreign soil. Paternoster, Lucky Lucas, Thomas, McDonald – there is no armistice for them. But I was still here, I think. Was I lucky? Had I done my bit? Should I rejoice? Not at this moment – I could but feel sad and alone. This moment would not return, for I was in a vast Cathedral, a natural one, with its dome of sky and fleeting cloud. There would be many sharing my emotions just now, in their place of the moment – kitchens, back rooms, front rooms, the back yard, in the park – wherever – thinking, remembering, weeping.

The Germans, too (who would not be losing their arrogance with an armistice as with a total defeat), had had enormous losses, and their price for provoking war would be very high. They were known to us as the Bosch or Jerry and to some, mostly civilians, as the Hun. But few who spoke of the Hun had seen him when he was tired, beaten and hungry, straggling along a hundred strong, with one private as escort who did not even look round. Dirty, lousy, stinking, unshaven, unkempt. Where were the banners, the trumpets, the drums, the pomp, the bombast, the glory? But we should have gone through to Berlin.

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About Family Tree

Soon the Last Post will sound as we commemorate the Armistice of 1918, a century ago. If you'd like to find out, or discover more, about your ancestor's time during the First World War - look no further. Our November issue is a First World War centenary commemorative issue, packed with information and advice about the records and the medals of First World War people. Have a read, do some research, and then, this year on Remembrance Sunday you'll be able to say that you truly have remembered them.