Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Why Rudyard's war memorial has 1921 as the end of First World War

It has always occurred to me as odd that the war memorial in Rudyard should have the date August 31st 1921 as the date signifying the end of the First World War. Why should this be so? Most people, if asked, would automatically pick November 11th 1918 as the end of the War. Perhaps others might suggest June 1919 when the Treaty of Versailles between the belligerent powers was signed in the Hall of Mirrors. But again this seems not to be the case. The facetious side of me thinks that no one bothered to tell the people of Rudyard that the war was over. There is a precedent for official oversight as the people of Berwick on Tweed were left out of the peace treaty concluded between Britain and Russia in 1855 at the end of the Crimean War- Berwick was always included as a separate entity as it was a disputed border town between England and Scotland.

 There is also a Laurel and Hardy film “Blockheads” when Stan is asked to defend a trench. The Armistice is declared and Mr Laurel is overlooked and stays on the Western Front. Years later he is found, a huge pile of empty bean cans behind him and a furrow that Stan has ploughed constantly marching up and down are evidence of his steadfastness.

More seriously, I wondered if the continuing fighting in Soviet Union and in Ireland might offer a clue. After 1918 the Allies came to the assistance of the “White” pro Czarist forces who were fighting the Communist Government that had seized power the year previously. About 40,000 British troops were sent to the Soviet Union. The 7th Battalion of the North Staffordshire Regiment, my grandfathers unit, were sent to the oil fields of Baku in the Caucasus to fight with Armenians against the Soviets. I did know an old comrade of my grandfather Bill Daniels who took part in the campaign which ended in 1920. The other possibility is the Irish War of Independence involving British troops which at the time was at a crucial stage.  In 1921 a truce was being negotiated between the IRA and the British Government. However this does not seem to enter into the Rudyard case.

The answer lies in a report made in the official Government mouth piece British Gazette of the 12th August 1921 which announced the official end of the First World War following the signing of a peace treaty with Hungary. As part of the old Austro Hungarian Empire it was an element of the alliance that Britain went to war with in 1914. Therefore agreement with the Hungarians over territory and reparations triggered the official ending of the war and the rather pedantic date carved into the war memorial in Rudyard.