WWI – What happened after the armistice?

November 11, 1918, a date that lives on commemorating the end of that ‘great war’ also known as the war to end all wars – except it didn’t. My grandfather remained in Europe after the war ended as part of the Army of Occupation and the novel I’m currently writing – Time & Regret – includes a few scenes set in Germany soon after that date.
What duties fall to an occupying force when the conflict is over? A while ago, I looked through The Occupation of the Rhineland, 1918-1929 by Sir James E. Edmonds and found the detailed occupation policy issued by General Sir H. Plumer. Herbert Charles Onslow Plumer had commanded the British Second Army during WWI and was the first commander of the British Army of the Rhine. Plumer’s policy covers topics from alcohol to public meetings, identity cards to night piquets.
I’ve included a few extracts but note that every topic included several other rules and restrictions:

  • IDENTITY CARDS Every inhabitant over 12 years of age must be in possession of an identity card, bearing his address, photograph and signature, and the signature and stamp of the appropriate civil official.
  • DWELLING HOUSES No person may change his residence without permission from the British military authorities.
  • CIRCULATION Circulation of hackers, musicians, pedlars, beggars and other itinerant persons is forbidden.
  • PASSES Persons failing to return passes on expiration to the civil authorities will be punished.
  • PRESS No pamphlet or leaflet may be printed of distributed.
  • ALCOHOL The sale or gift of drink other than wine or beer either to any member of the British Army or to civilians is forbidden except by written order of the British military authorities.
  • PUBLIC MEETINGS All assembling in crowds is forbidden.
  • ARMS AND AMMUNITION The carrying of arms and ammunition of any kind is forbidden.
  • TELEPHONES The use of telephones is forbidden, except with the permission of the British military authorities.
  • CARRIER PIGEONS The use of carrier pigeons is forbidden.
  • PHOTOGRAPHY Civilians are forbidden to carry photographic apparatus out of doors.
  • NIGHT PIQUETS In every village and town units are to detail piquets at night to patrol and ensure that the regulations regarding lights, circulation, etc. are carried out.

At the end of this policy, Plumer included the following order.

All persons of the male sex will show proper respect for British officers and at the playing of the British National Anthem by raising their hats, in the case of persons in uniform by saluting.

Very serious business, occupying the countries that tried to destroy you.

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3 Responses

  1. Great Topic! For an insider’s view of Berlin, try downloading for free, “An English Wife in Berlin” by Evelyn, Princess Blucher. (If you can’t I will send you my copy.) Blucher was married to a German prince and spent the entire war in and around Berlin. In her memoirs, she gives you the inside story of what was going on, not only at her aristocratic level, but also with returning German soldiers, Allied POW’s, and the disastrous effects the war had on ordinary German civilians. She discusses how the Russian embassy became a hotbed of Anarchy and Bolshevism, and how they used to disseminate leaflets to the Germans, stirring them up to bloodshed and plunder.
    She discusses the state of pandemonium that existed in Berlin leading up to and right after Armistice WHICH MADE IT NECESSARY for these draconian laws to exist in order to save lives. Apparently, the streets are filled with a “…seething mass of people constantly coming and going. Sinister-looking red flags are waving where so short a time a go the black, white, and red were handing…” And as long as one did not hear rifle shots, it was considered quiet. There are machine-gunners stationed on roofs opposite assembly halls who fire on people when they gather for political meetings. (p. 293)
    Fighting over food and searching for food are major themes. She discusses the meager diet they survived on, and how hoards took the law into their own hands: “Public and private food supplies are plundered and confiscated by bands of individuals who terrorize (over) the unarmed civilians.” (p. 303)
    She gives a startling description of how an angry mob rushed into the royal castle and hauled down the Prussian flag and replaced it with a revolutionary flag where the Hohenzollern flag had flown for centuries. Pages 297-298 give a poetic description of the evolution of the German national character, and how it differs from the English. She also gives you insights into the Kaiser throughout the book. A wealth of information and a truly great read!

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