By kind permission of John King, Author
Meanwhile the war was drawing to its close. Morale in the German army was steadily weakening and in October a conditional offer of peace was made to the Allies. This was declined at first, but after further advances by the Allies on the Western Front, the Kaiser abdicated and a Socialist government seized power in Berlin. There were negotiations while the Allies advanced until on 11 November 1918 the German delegates accepted the Allied armistice terms. The troops were instructed to cease fire at 11 00 hours.
So ended the bloodiest conflict in the history of the world. In Britain, France and Germany the best of a whole generation had been wiped out. The British dead numbered 744,000, the French nearly twice and the Germans three times as many. In that conflict, Grove Park had played its part as this record has indicated.
How did the two vicars react? Farquhar’s language was a little rich when he wrote for the December magazine: ‘The allied armies have won the greatest of all wars, prepared for and provoked by our enemies in the most deliberate manner and fought by them in the most savage spirit, uncontrolled by any civllised or Christian influence and unrestrained by any ordinary usages of war, with all the devices which human ingenuity has framed, prostituted by the German people, so that we cannot be chivalrous to a beaten foe, because the record of all these bitter and sorrowful days cries out to heaven for vengeance.”
By contrast, Luffman was restrained and focussed attention on the British Navy and the surrender of the German fleet on 21 November which he described as a day without parallel in Britain’s history, but he did ask for a prayer to God to give light and guidance to the men who would have the great settlement to make. Indeed, there were to be same months before peace was formalised.
Meanwhile there was jubilation on Armistice Day. Some of the schools released the children early, and some of the boys were subsequently seen roaring round Grove Park on their bicycles, ringing the bells and sporting Union Jacks on the handlebars. One resident, Mrs Dollman, rang a handbell in her front garden in Chinbrook Road for hours on end, or so it seemed; such was the euphoria.
While the peace negotiations took place, the British Forces remained on alert, although some were demobbed. Two men were not to see the peace completed. One was C A Dare of theASC who died on 25 November, the same day that the Corps became the Royal Army Service Corps in recognition of its great work in nearly every part of the world during the war. The other was Wilfred Ellercamp who, on 30 December, was starting on a flight when at about 200 feet his aircraft collided with that of another, both pilots having been temporarily blinded by a strong sun. Ellercamp, an only son, was nineteen. A friend of his family wrote after the funeral
At dazzling noontide of a winter’s day;
Its very radiance cause his swift undoing,
And earth uprose to greet his lifeless clay.
The crash unloosed the fetters of his soul,
And whilst his broken body earthward wends,
On emblematic wings, his spirit soars,
And with angelic escort swift ascends”.
The Army Service Corps record at Grove Park had been most impressive. From the opening of the depot in 1914 until the Armistice, no less than 284,567 men and women arrived there, many of them leaving for overseas soon after. The average number of arrivals was 1327 a week. But by January 1919 the men still at Grove Park were restless and several local newspapers carried stories about troops protesting about the delay in demob. A Brigadier General many years later recalled that there was almost a riot, although this was perhaps a little exaggerated.
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