11th November 1918 Monday
The Central Powers Defeated as Armistice is signed in France, but in Russia the Fighting Continues.
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“On Monday 11th Nov. our planes had a busy day in spite of the disagreeable weather conditions. It was wet and very cold. Millar, the flight-commander, crashed at Verst 455 but wasn’t hurt, and somebody else dropped two bombs into the lake, which circumstance put the wind up everybody!”
On this day the guns on the Western Front and most other fronts ceased their relentless roar. The World had been plunged into a turmoil such as it had never before experienced. On July 28th 1914 a young Serbian student shot and killed Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir apparent to the throne of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and his wife whilst on a visit to Sarajevo. The resulting domino effect saw most of Europe gradually sliding into an unstoppable nightmare that would last for four years and four months. Some skirmishes did continue in some of the remoter theatres of the war such as Mozambique and Palestine but the “war to end all wars” for most people ceased at 11am French time on the 11thNovember 1918.
Winston Churchill at this point in history was the British Minister for Munitions after having had a chequered record during the war, resigning after being heavily blamed for his role in the massacres in the Dardenelles. Gallipoli’s blood soaked beaches had seen the deaths of 250,000 troops and Churchill was forced to resign from Government in November 1915. Days later he took himself off to the trenches assuming the rank of Lt. Colonel and commanding the 6thBattalion Royal Scots Fusiliers. Although his unit was not involved in direct fighting at the time, Churchill himself visited the front line no less than 36 times, cheating death more than once. It was obvious that he was trying to expunge his reputation from the disasters of Turkey.
He returned to Parliament to more criticism. ‘You will one day discover that the state of mind revealed in (your) letter is the reason why you do not win trust even where you command admiration. In every line of it, national interests are completely overshadowed by your personal concern.’, was David Lloyd George’s assessment. Nevertheless, Churchill returned to Government in July 1917 as Minister of Munitions, but it was events taking place in Russia that would occupy his attention as it did through most of his life.
The Revolutions that took place in Russia from April 1917 and again in October that year brought fear of a destabilising situation. The communist Bolsheviks had seized power in Russia and fearing the spread of communism throughout war torn Europe Churchill felt he must do anything in his power to check its proliferation.
For the men sent to fight the cause against Bolshevism, they did not hear about the Armistice until the following day, during which time more casualties were sustained. They could have been forgiven for thinking that they would immediately lay down their arms at the news that the war had ended. From the high command downwards they waited expectantly for the order to return home. This order never came and the fight went on. Douglas and his comrades would remain in Russia to fight Churchill’s (and others’) undeclared war against communism. This was a war that many would ask, “Why are we here”? It was seen as an internal conflict. If Russians wanted a Bolshevik government then so what? That’s their business why should it bother us? Churchill took a wider view and by those who agreed with him managing to convince the United States to assist they would remain there for the months to come.
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