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Tales From The Archive: It'll All Be Over By Christmas

Harriet from Coventry Archives presents her thoughts from working with World War I letters.

'Recently whilst doing research for an enquiry I have been reading some letters from World War I and it has made me think about how wonderful it must have been to hear the news that Armistice had been agreed and the War, was finally, really, over.

(Royal Warwickshire Regiment (Part) Wedgenock Camp (1915))

I think most people are familiar with the phrase “It’ll be over by Christmas” from that war, as well as the infamous football match which happened between British and German soldiers in that first Christmas.

I know that it is propaganda’s job to be stirring and optimistic but having read this soldier’s letters, I do wonder how deep that optimism really went within society. Even when he touches upon terrible experiences, such as heavy shelling, the overall tone of his letters is optimistic consistently throughout from 1916 which is the earliest one, until the last on Thursday 14th 1918 which includes his reaction to hearing about the Armistice.

“We had reached divisional headquarters when one of our staff-officers rode up, smiling all over his face, and told us that the armistice was signed and the war practically over. Of course we all cheered and commenced to wear a smile that has not since been erased,”

I have no doubt that he probably thought and felt an awful lot more than he included in his letters but I still think it is incredible that he kept such lightness of tone because his experiences will still have been a hell.

Today I think we can feel quite removed from it all even though we observe the 2 minutes silence on the 11th Day, at the 11th Hour, of the 11th Month. To be able to work with, and read someone’s private thoughts and experiences is a privilege and reaffirms the importance of remembrance.

We will remember them.'