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.