The 100th anniversary of the end of WWI

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Today marks 100 years since the end of WWI. What a horrifying and devastating war. Tragically, the terms of the armistice led to economic distress and resentment in Germany, which when combined with a toxic man like Hitler, who promised to tear up the Treaty of Versailles, led to WWII.

Each of my three published novels features the end of the war. Here’s an excerpt from my first novel Unravelled when Edward Jamieson is remembering his experience.

After Valenciennes, Germany was ready to surrender. On November eleventh, unaware of any official communiqué, Edward and his comrades instead became conscious of the absence of gunfire, a quiet filled with birdsong, the rustle of leaves and the creak of an unhinged shutter. Bells began to chime. Wild shouts filled the air as voice after voice swept the news along.

Clustered in front of their homes, in the fields and along the roadside, the French people seemed stunned at first. But soon Edward’s unit heard the sound of drums and the unmistakable rhythm of the Marseillaise. Responding to the call of their homeland, families began singing. Then a procession formed as a man with only one arm held the French flag high in the air, leading whoever would follow into town. Cafes and restaurants filled to capacity, windows and doors opened wide, the smell of food wafted into the streets as though the town itself brimmed with joy.

Gathering in the town square to hear Lieutenant Colonel Gill’s briefing, every soldier dreamed of home. The sun shone brilliantly. Gill’s voice rang out.

“Men, today marks the beginning of the future. You have fought tirelessly to secure freedom for family and friends, for our country and the Commonwealth. It is a momentous victory, which we have achieved together. You have given of yourselves unstintingly and courageously. You have seen your comrades suffer, seen death close at hand and yet, you have endured. It is a testament to your valour and commitment that Canada has contributed so magnificently to the outcome of this war. The war is over. Peace has been won. We have made the world safe for democracy and soon we’ll all go home to our families.”

Edward heard a rustle in the back of the ranks and then the applause and cheers began. On and on it went. Elated warriors filled the square with their shouts and four years of pent-up emotions released like floodgates opening on a narrow gorge.

Gill raised his hand and held it there for some time until the square was quiet again.

“Signals officers will be reviewing the needs of the army during occupation. We will assess each and every soldier and proceed in stages to return you all to Canada as soon as possible.” He stopped to look around the square as though he wanted to make eye contact with every soldier, one by one. “I am proud, so very proud, to have been your commanding officer for the past three years.”

Emotion thickened Gill’s gruff voice. He saluted his troops, holding his arm rigid for much longer than usual, then stepped down from the stage. Only a very few who were close enough saw the tears glimmering in his eyes.

The dead had lived on in Edward’s nightmares. He remembered feeling like an old man, withered and worn, wise in ways he wished he were not, aware of all that sucks humanity from the marrow of men.

The title UNRAVELLED says it all. Reading this again now, I’m filled with feelings of loss and the incredible damage to humanity that war brings about.

FOR MORE ON READING & WRITING HISTORICAL FICTION FOLLOW A WRITER OF HISTORY (using the widget on the left sidebar)

M.K. Tod writes historical fiction. Her latest novel, TIME AND REGRET was published by Lake Union. Mary’s other novels, LIES TOLD IN SILENCE and UNRAVELLED are available from Amazon, NookKoboGoogle Play and iTunes. She can be contacted on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads or on her website www.mktod.com.

 

Somewhere in Africa – 19th December 1918

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Linda German East AfricaHenry’s last letter in the collection that my husband has.

Lindi (On the Coast) – 19th December 1918

I have just received three of your letters dated July and August from Vancouver, also the various postcards. I am very glad to hear it was such an enjoyable holiday for both of you. You would certainly appreciate being by the sea once again with the complete change of scenery and climate, especially when these are so grand as you get in B.C. Poor old Scotland of course gets dwarfed by comparison when once you leave her shores, but she always remains Scotland.

Here we are waiting for a ship to take us up the coast. We are doing ourselves pretty well and get to bathe in the evenings, although it was probably responsible for bringing on a go of fever, and I went into hospital for a day or two. I am all right again and it was a pleasant change from camp life and diet, especially when I could partake of an egg and an occasional fish. I have nothing fresh to report and just wish there was word of a ship to take us away from the heat and mosquitoes.

Photo above is the main street of Lindi. Source: Getty Images.

I’ll try to find a picture of Henry Tod. I know that he married Ethel Scott later in life – 1947. Since he was born in 1882, he would have been 65 at the time. Henry died in 1975. 

FOR MORE ON READING & WRITING HISTORICAL FICTION FOLLOW A WRITER OF HISTORY (using the widget on the left sidebar)

M.K. Tod writes historical fiction. Her latest novel, TIME AND REGRET was published by Lake Union. Mary’s other novels, LIES TOLD IN SILENCE and UNRAVELLED are available from Amazon, NookKoboGoogle Play and iTunes. She can be contacted on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads or on her website www.mktod.com.

Somewhere in Africa – 31st October 1918

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31st October 1918

I have just received a big batch of your letters dated April and May [5 months ago] and have more or less digested all of your news. I am sorry to hear Maxwell Forsyth has been killed. His battalion, the 8th Gordons, if I remember rightly, was in our Division in France, although I never met him there.

The war seems to be r rapidly drawing to a close and we expect the momentous news of peace any day. Having started the fight the Germans are not waiting for their licking, but are getting out of the ring before he is knocked out. The latest news of our local friends is that they have got as fas as Northern Rhodesia, still a “fighting” force. [Map from warfarehistorynetwork.com. Red arrows show British attempts to capture von Lettow in 1916. Green arrows show von Lettow’s progress ending up in Northern Rhodesia.]

From Wikipedia:

On 28 September 1918, Lettow-Vorbeck again crossed the Rovuma River and returned to German East Africa with the British still in pursuit. He then turned west and raided Northern Rhodesia, thus evading a trap the British had prepared for him in German East Africa.

We are back at our old quarters in Ndanda, which you may remember from my letters earlier in the year, so that we are far away from the seat of trouble, but we shall probably get sudden orders that will send us streaking across the country to take up a strategic position somewhere.

The news from Europe however must surely have a depressing effect on von Lettow’s wonderful spirit and energy. He is a Prussian of the Prussians, but once the glamour of the Kaiser is removed I think he will see the futility of keeping it up.

I hope you are considering the ways and means of your annual holiday and hope you will have a good time, wherever it may be. In a sense the latter half of the campaign here has been something of a holiday, with alternate spells of strenuous campaigning and loafing. I have been keeping wonderfully fit, with no recurrence of the fever lately. I have one of Philip’s rare letters to acknowledge. [Philip was my husband’s grandfather.]

No danger for Henry at the moment.

FOR MORE ON READING & WRITING HISTORICAL FICTION – AND HENRY TOD’S WWI LETTERS – FOLLOW A WRITER OF HISTORY (using the widget on the left sidebar)

M.K. Tod writes historical fiction. Her latest novel, TIME AND REGRET was published by Lake Union. Mary’s other novels, LIES TOLD IN SILENCE and UNRAVELLED are available from Amazon, NookKoboGoogle Play and iTunes. She can be contacted on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads or on her website www.mktod.com.