Dear Visitor, This is the FootSoldierSam blog – the whole of my father Private Sam Sutcliffe’s personal Great War story, Nobody Of Any Importance: A Foot Soldier’s Memoir Of World War I. It runs for 262 episodes (2014-2019), covering his 1914-1919 experience from enlistment at 16, through training, Gallipoli, the Somme, the Spring Offensive, and eight months as a POW to his return home and, eventually, the London Peace Parade – all originally scheduled, rather approximately, 100 years on from the week in which the events actually occurred. Please have a read. If you’d care to buy a Memoir paperback or e-book or one of the battle excerpts the details are below. All proceeds will always go to the British Red Cross who saved his life a couple of times…
Sam’s Memoir(1) – paperback and e-book – and the e-excerpts from it are now available in their third and final editions with added Endnotes and, in the Memoir, added documentation.
For details of how to buy the Memoir or Gallipoli & Somme & Arras 1918/POW etc mini-e-books click here plus see reader reviews here and here and reviews from the Western Front Association and the Gallipoli Association here. For AUDIO excerpts click Here Join FootSoldierSam on Facebook Here
The war’s over – and this week, bar the occasional blurt no doubt, so are my father FootSoldierSam Sutcliffe’s blogs, Facebook posts and tweets – it’s the Centenary of the July 19, 1919, Peace parade in London which he attended with fellow veteran brother Ted: “Thus, we reckoned, we had completed our long connection with the forces of war…”
See information on Sam’s son Phil’s readings from the Memoir here
All proceeds from all versions of Sam’s Memoir will always go to the British Red Cross – and the current running donations total as of March 1, 2023, is £8,988.40 (The edit function on the "donations" box at the end of this page has vanished so I can't update it to the current figure.)
A hundred years ago this week, in the aftermath of the Armistice… The Paris Peace Conference process moved another stage with the presentation of the Treaty Of St Germain to the Austrian Government. Continuing in the spirit of retribution rather than reconciliation begun by the more famous Treaty Of Versailles with Germany, it stripped the former Habsburg Empire of territories including Hungary, Poland, Croatia/Serbia/Slovenia and parts of northern Italy it previously held – and the Treaty imposed reparations to be paid to the Allies for the next 30 years (which didn’t work out).
The UK staged its great Peace Parade on July 19 in London with the King, Queen, Generals and 15,000 soldiers – plus, amid the crowds gathered from all over the country, two former Tommies in my father, FootSoldierSam, and his brother, Ted (see below)…
The day after the celebration, ex-servicemen in Luton rioted and burnt down the Town Hall (July 20). And over in America, the Washington Race Riot (July 19-24), the latest in a volatile US summer, saw the rumour of a black man being arrested for rape – actually the complainant said she was “jostled” – trigger a white vigilante onslaught soon to be countered by strong, often armed, black resistance.
For the rest no major events are reported, but the Russian Civil War (1918-21) continued with the Bolsheviks starting to gain the upper hand… so did the Greco-Turkish War (1919-22)… and the Third Anglo-Afghan War (May 6-Aug 8)…
[Memoir background: my father, Lance Corporal Signaller Sam Sutcliffe from Edmonton, north London, 16-year-old underage volunteer in September, 1914, fought at Gallipoli with the 2/1st Royal Fusiliers (Blogs September 20, 2015, to January 3, 2016), then on the Somme Front with his second outfit, the Kensingtons (Blogs May 15 to September 25, 2016)… until officialdom spotted his real age – 18, legally too young for the battlefield. They told him he could take a break from the fighting until he turned 19. He accepted, though with an enduring sense of guilt. December, 1916, saw him posted to Harrogate, Yorkshire, and re-allocated to the Essex Regiment Battalion (Blogs November 27, 2016, to November 11, 2017). During this interlude he suffered various illnesses while recovering from trench warfare’s privations. In December, probably, solo, he returned to France – reverted to Private by then, I don’t really know why – and dogsbodied around Arras until mid-March when he ran into his own Essex 2/7th Battalion. They moved into the trenches near Fampoux just in time for the German Spring Offensive. A last stand by the Battalion on March 28, 1918, left 80 alive and “fit” out of the 520 who started the day – the 440 in between being dead, wounded or, like Sam, “missing” and, in his case, a POW (Blog March 25, 2018). For several months he wandered occupied France in randomly-assembled half-starved POW groups doing hard labour, before spending the summer in southern Germany and finally moving westwards to Lorraine – whence, the day after Armistice, his long trek towards the French Front began. He reached safety after tiptoeing through a German minefield (November 15 probably). Then began his recovery from chronic near-starvation – and a brief emotional breakdown – until, finally, on December 10, 1918, he returned to England and another few days in hospital before reuniting with parents and siblings, especially brother Ted, home on a week’s leave but suffering badly from gas damage. Civilian life offered Sam a warm welcome… until, in February, 1919, the Army called him back - though only to a “Dad’s Army” unit. Meaning, at first, a few weeks de factoholiday in Brighton. But then, something completely different… through the spring, Sam and others ex-POWs guard German POWs at a camp in Sussex, while making various attempts to get back to “normal” life until at last… demob – and now it’s the Peace Parade!]
FOOTSOLDIERSAM SPEAKS (100 years on and for the last time)
July 19, 1919, Hyde Park. Last week, in May, my father, Private Sam Sutcliffe – formerly Lance Corporal Signaller, but reverted to the PBI rank he signed up to on September 10, 1914 – did the demob formalities after a medical verdict that he’d become “unfit for service” via the alimentary consequences of malnourishment in the trenches and then, much worse, in his travelling POW band, which had him (temporarily) wasting away and often in pain.
With the back pay he was owed, he ate and drank, lazed about a good deal – and bought himself a nice civvy suit.
Now though, it’s the grand goodbye to all that. Sam and fellow Western Front veteran, older brother Ted (then 22) join the massed audience for the post-Versailles-signing Peace Parade in London:
‘With peace declared and signed for(2), my brother and I went up West to view the great procession of all the victorious Armies and associated bigwigs – spectators, we, watching the men who won the war(3).
|Gurkhas of the Indian Army on the Mall, 19/7/19. Pic by Arthur Crane,|
courtesy of IWM.
Barmy as kids, at one point, in Hyde Park, to get a good view we climbed a tree. We sat on a bough, high and happy. Below us and slightly to one side, an elderly couple picnicked. The bands played gloriously and the marchers’ feet crunched on the sanded road – it was great.
Then the bough broke and down we came. Thankfully, the old couple were unhurt, only scared, as the grandpa proved via his shouted opinion that our parents had conceived us in sin.
We dashed from place to place to catch up with different parts of the show – we saw Queen Alexandra(4) close-up and confirmed what we had read about her beautiful make-up – and generally had a fine old time.
Thus, we reckoned, we had completed our long connection with the forces of war and could now consider ourselves personally at peace.
|King George V (left of centre, bearded), Queen Mary (second from right?, Queen Alexandra (right?) at the saluting base, 19/7/19 by a US official photographer,|
courtesy of IWM
At a stroke, my brother had already translated himself from a war-stained, mentioned-in-despatches-Military-Medal-you’ve-done-your-bit-thankyou-very-much-goodbye ex-soldier into a City gent. Now, on work days, garbed in a blue, pin-striped, well-cut suit with plenty of shirt cuff showing below the fashionable, rather short sleeves, fawn spats, and a dark, fur Homburg hat, he carried a light, knobbly cane or, if the papers forecast rain, a rolled umbrella.
Somehow, Ted had avoided contact with Army doctors, and so left the Service with what I knew to be a serious lung condition caused by a lengthy exposure to war gas; his breathing remained quicker and shallower than it should have been… He still made nothing of it, though, and, as his work demanded no physical effort, he could cover up his disability(5).
Above all, he wanted no further connection with anything military. Mass murder to no observable purpose had sickened and saddened him. So he threw himself into his business activities.
Unskilled me had no highfalutin’ notions as to my prospects, but I was convinced that one method of turning an honest penny would eventually provide me with the price of a crust and a cuppa – to wit, buying something cheaply, adding a modest margin to its cost price, and flogging it(6). Many days, many failures, and a lot of physical distress were to come my way, but youth was on my side.
It seems such a shame that one must cut loose from boyhood, but the years of adolescence had been consumed in playing at being a soldier and a man. And now it was all finished, I really had attained the official status of manhood.
I was just 21.’
(2) Following six months of negotiation at the Paris Peace Conference, the Treaty of Versailles ended the state of war between Germany and the Allied powers on June 28, 1919 – not coincidentally the fifth anniversary of the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the event which triggered the war. The UK ratified the Treaty two days after the Peace Parade.
(3) “The Peace March For The Glorious Dead” took place on Saturday, July 19, 1919 (Sam had his 21st on July 6). The great event’s title was arrived at after PM Lloyd George opposed the initial proposal of a “Victory Parade” and insisted that it be couched as a tribute to the dead. Architect Sir Edward Lutyens (1869-1944) designed a temporary wood-and-plaster version of the present “Cenotaph” memorial which was erected in Whitehall for the occasion (“The Glorious Dead” being the phrase carved into the permanent version later). Field Marshall Douglas Haig, Commander-In-Chief of the British Army, and soon to be ennobled as an Earl, led 15,000 troops on the march – sources include http://www.forces-war-records.co.uk/blog/2013/07/19/on-this-day-19th-july-1919-peace-day-when-the-boys-came-home(you may have to paste this address into a search engine). Various events and entertainments followed in the Central London parks. In Hyde Park, where my father and his brother Ted ended up, an “Imperial Choir“ of 10,000 voices sang, accompanied by the massed bands of the Brigade Of Guards and “The King and Queen paid a surprise visit” (George V and Queen Mary). Naturally, while the nation generally enjoyed the celebration, many demurred or even protested, with ex-Servicemen often taking the lead according to a web source no longer available.
|Field Marshall Haig (whom my father and uncle detested – though it wasn't high on his agenda of worries during WW1) salutes the royals 19/7/19 by US official photographer, courtesy of IWM.|
(4) Queen Alexandra of Denmark, then 74, mother of George V and Consort to Edward VII, who had died in 1910.
(5) Philip Broughton Sutcliffe, nicknamed “Ted” (from “Tid” from “Tiddler” as a kid), born October 15, 1896, in Broughton, Salford, died on January 26, 1922, aged 25. Cause of death, tuberculosis, no doubt abetted by the severe lung damage he suffered from being gassed on the Western Front in 1918. When I was born in 1947, my father named me after his beloved long-lost brother, my uncle.
(6) That’s what my father did. Specifically, he worked as a barrow boy in Edmonton market – a draper – in partnership with his younger brother, Alf. The two had a stall there between the wars, then moved into a small corner shop, still selling cloth, which they ran with one assistant until the early ‘60s. During WW2 both my father and my mother, Mona (20 years his junior), worked as Civil Defence first-aiders and ambulance drivers throughout the Blitz.
All the best– FSS
Next week: There is no next week… war’s over, relish the peace... remember them...
(1) In his 70s, Sam Sutcliffe wrote Nobody Of Any Importance, a Memoir of his life from childhood through Gallipoli, the Somme, Arras 1918 and eight months as a POW to the 1919 Peace parade.