‘Is this really the last night’? A letter home from Sister Kate Luard, 10th November 1918

100 years ago, on 10th November 1919, Sister Kate Luard wrote a letter home. It was the last night of the First World War, and after everything she had witnessed and experienced in the last four years, she was trying to process that it would all soon be over.

Katherine Evelyn Luard was a remarkable woman. Over the last four years, as part of our contribution to marking the centenary of the First World War we have followed her progress as she nursed countless men on the Western Front. While she cared for the wounded, the sick, and the dying, she frequently wrote home, telling her family what she was experiencing.

Kate’s letters give a sense of a woman of enormous energy and adventurousness with a strong ethos of duty and service. A professional nurse, she trained in the 1890s when nursing was still not an entirely respectable profession for a young woman. She served as a military nurse in the Boer War before returning to civilian nursing. On the outbreak of the First World War she volunteered again as a military nurse, and arrived in France just days after the war had started. Apart from short periods of leave, she remained on the Western Front throughout the conflict, only returning home in December 1918 to care for her aging father.

The letter she wrote on the 10th November 1918 is an extraordinary document, and we thought it worth sharing with you here in full, 100 years after it was written. The letter will be on display in the ERO Searchroom until January 2019.

The first page of Kate Luard’s letter home written on 10th November 1918

 

Sunday night                                                                                        Nov 10th

Dear G & N, you have given me the details about Oxford that I was wanting to know, but Ellie must tell me all the heavenly & funny things Joan said one day.[1] Rose’s letter today of her friend who died the day they found it out shows what a treacherous illness it is: just the same happens here.[2] While I am writing to the mother to say he is seriously ill, a slip comes from the Ward to say he is dead. And I don’t think any doctoring or nursing has the slightest effect in this virulent pneumonia. You might as well give an empty cylinder as give oxygen: their lungs get blocked & their lips and faces turn black & it is all over. The delirium is one of the most difficult parts when you are short of staff. I stopped one dying Sergt who was getting out of bed with nothing but a pyjama jacket on, because he wanted to get to his men. “No officers?” he kept saying “Are there no officers? then I must take charge.”

[Vertically up the page] What a nice letter from A.F. London about the Salonika Army

Or they get a fixed idea that they are ‘absent without leave’ & must ‘rejoin my battalion’. None of us have ever seen it before in this virulent epidemic form, & the mortality is extraordinarily depressing. In one ward 17 out of 21 died in a few days. Everyone in the influenza wards has to wear a gauze mask & we make a point of off duty time for them. So far only 1 Sister & 2 VADs & three orderlies have gone sick with it, & they are not pneumonic. Several sisters & 1 VAD have died at the Sick Sisters Hosp. No. 8 Gen.

I think it is abating a little. I am so glad Rose is having a rest. Did G go back to Mr A’s?[3] When does Daisy come back from Nash?[4]

There is the most angelic baby Gerry here who had his leg off yesterday. He is so pleased that his mother will see him with a new leg with no pain in it! He has shining golden hair, blue eyes & a child’s smile. Everyone spoils him.

We haven’t nearly so many in now. All our best wards are British again.

About the War, is this really the last night our own RAF will go over dropping destruction into hundreds of Germans? They have already stopped coming over to us I believe. Is tomorrow morning the last time of ‘standing to’, & listening posts, & firesteps, & swimming canals under mg [machine gun] fire & Zero hours & fractured femurs & smashed jaws & mustard gas & the crash of bombs & all the strange doings of the last four years?

It is quite impossible for a war-soaked brain like mine to think in terms of peace; war has come to be natural – peace unnatural.

[Vertically up the page] 1000 thanks for all your letters

This afternoon at the lovely big service at the Cathedral just like St Paul’s with beautiful singing, & the sun lighting up the tracings of the roof, one realised that all the War Intercessions of the last years are about to be answered & as far as actual War goes will be meaningless after tomorrow, though the sick & wounded & bereaved part goes on yet. What a vital set of new Intercessions the Nations will need now, with the warnings of Russia Bulgaria Austria & Germany all disrupting in turn.

There’s nothing Bolshevik about us or the French thank goodness. The French are so domestic & practical & matter of fact just now. In Rouen (apart from the British occupation it amounts to that) you’d never know there’d been a War.

I can’t help wishing Foch[5] had asked Douglas Haig as well as his old pal & Rosie Wemyss[6] to meet the German Plenies. He wouldn’t have won this War without us.

I wish we could ask RW to lunch one day & make him tell us about it, the bowing & saluting & Foch refusing point blank to suspend hostilities during the 72 hours.

What I feel nervous about is who’s going to be responsible for carrying out our terms if they accept them, now they’ve booted out William & Max, & probably Hindenburg & Tirpitz & Ludendorff & Hertling & Hollweg & everyone who has ever run the ship of state? Can the saddler control the nation?

All these awakening citizens must feel such dupes & fools to have bootlicked the Hohenzollern inflation so long. The brave ones who have died for the Fatherland will never know that it wasn’t for the Fatherland at all, as far as victory goes, though perhaps all this mess up will be their salvation in the end, as it has ours.

In a way it seems almost a bigger change from War to Peace than it was from Peace to War – perhaps because there was nothing very glorious about out last 10 years of peace & everything about our 4 years of War has been very glorious.

Goodnight

Love to father

KEL

 

[1] Joan was Kate’s niece, who had just died of influenza, aged 19. Ellie was Joan’s mother. Ellie had already lost her husband Frank, Kate’s brother, who was killed at Gallipoli.

[2] Rose was one of Kate’s sisters

[3] G is Kate’s sister Georgina

[4] Daisy was another of Kate’s sisters

[5] Marshal Ferdinand Foch, the Supreme Allied Commander during the war, who represented the French at the Armistice Negotiations

[6] Rosslyn Wemyss, a senior naval commander who represented the British at the Armistice negotiations

 

‘Peace Again! How the News was Received in Essex’


Discover stories of Essex people and places during and after the war at our remembrance event on Saturday 10th November 2018 – find out more and book here.


On Monday 11th November 1918, news that an armistice had been agreed and that the fighting would cease at 11am that day spread through Essex. After over four years of sacrifice and slaughter, how did people react to the news that the war was finally coming to an end?

The Essex County Chronicle reported on the Armistice on 16th November 1918

The news was announced in various ways; in Chelmsford the Essex County Chronicle exhibited a notice in their office window:

‘Peace – Official:

Armistice signed at 5 o’clock this morning; hostilities cease at 11.’

Factories sounded their hooters and whistles, church bells rang out, and the drivers of railway engines sounded their whistles. According to reports in the Essex County Chronicle of 16th November 1918, within a short time most towns were ablaze with flags and bunting, and the streets crowded with people. In Braintree, for example, ‘all work ceased and joyous scenes began’. (In Bishop Stortford, it was reported that a good trade had been done in flags and bunting over the weekend in anticipation of the good news.)

The day was declared a holiday; in Chelmsford, ‘Hoffmann’s great works emptied themselves of the thousands of workpeople’, while in Braintree ‘girl and men workers’ from Crittall’s and Lake and Elliot’s works flooded out. In Dagenham, the managing director of the Sterling Telephone and Electric Company, Mr Guy Burney, was the one to break the news to the workers. The factory staff sang the National Anthem and Rule Britannia, and had a ‘short impromptu dance’.

Across the county, high streets and market squares were filled with people, impromptu speeches were made, and bands played patriotic songs, hymns, and the National Anthem. In Chelmsford, reported the Chronicle, ‘Soldiers and civilians shook each other by the hand, and everyone wanted to laugh, cheer, and shed a tear of gladness at the same time’.

In Witham, a procession paraded the streets composed of women workers from a local munitions workshop, and Scottish soldiers billeted in the town, ‘carrying a large Union Jack and singing joyfully’.

In Halstead, alongside celebrations in the streets, 21 shots were fired from a cannon at Halstead Brewery by one of the owners, Lt. Adams, who also held a commission in the Naval Volunteer Reserve.

In Romford, music was provided in the afternoon by the New Zealand Expeditionary Force Band, who were stationed nearby. There was no military band in Writtle, but recovering wounded men paraded ‘with a tin kettle and bath band’.

In Dagenham, a spontaneous football match was arranged between the RAF based at Sutton’s Farm, and workers from the Sterling factory; the result was a 4-2 win for the factory side.

In Doddinghurst things were a bit more sedate; a whist drive was held in the afternoon to raise money for prisoners of war.

In many places the Christian religion played a central role on Armistice Day, with most churches holding services of thanksgiving in the evening. Vicars spoke to very large congregations; at Chelmsford Cathedral people spilled out into the porch and outside. The central theme of the sermons reported in the Chronicle was giving thanks to God for the Allied victory. One vicar in Brentwood spoke of how he believed that ‘a supernatural power’ had brought about the Victory, and gave thanks for ‘what was to be, they believed, a permanent peace’.

Celebrations continued into the evening (troops in a camp near Bishop Stortford were told by their commander that they would be allowed out until the heady hour of 11pm). In Braintree, the evening brought a concert, arranged by discharged soldiers, held in the Institute Hall. In Bishop Stortford, a large number of people were still gathered in the market square, and local Volunteers paraded, with light being provided by the Fire Brigade carrying torches, and the parade being joined by soldiers, women workers, wounded, and school children. ‘Most of the lamps in the streets had been lighted, and welcome lights again shone from windows.’

Celebrations in Witham were a little different; at 10pm, ‘a great bonfire was lit in the old Market Place in the middle of Witham High Street. Tar barrels, with a quantity of tar, boxes, timber, and other fuel were provided, and a great flare was created, reaching as high as the tops of houses adjoining the street. A crown of many hundred people, soldiers, sailors, munition girls, and townspeople, assembled round the fire, dancing, singing patriotic songs, and generally enjoying themselves. The fire, which lasted four hours, was the greatest seen for many years in Witham Street, where on previous historic occasions such fires were lighted’. The townspeople enjoyed the bonfire so much, they had another one the following night on the green opposite the church, this time with fireworks, while patriotic songs were sung and the church bells pealed.

In Bures the occasion was also marked with a bonfire, the villagers going as far as to burn an effigy of the Kaiser ‘amid loud shouts of approval’.

In Dunmow, meanwhile, German prisoners of war accommodated in the town workhouse also welcomed the news with a smoking concert in the evening. The end of the war ‘gave them obvious pleasure, as did the turn events had taken regarding the Kaiser’. The over 200 Germans sang German songs ‘for some hours’, and apparently many ‘expressed the hope that they would not be compelled to go back to Germany, but allowed to stay at their present employment in England’.

Some towns continued the celebration over the following days. In Braintree, factories remained closed on Tuesday, and ‘processions paraded the town all day, headed by the ugle bands of the Cadets and Boy Scouts, and the newly formed Brass Band’ (which had got together the previous day). In Halstead, a service of thanksgiving was held in the Town Hall on Wednesday, with people coming from all the town’s places of worship. The service finished on Market Hill, and bells of nearby St Andrew’s church rang out, the tower being decorated with national flags and bunting

Alongside the celebrations though, people also remembered those they had lost. In Braintree, amid ‘all the rejoicing people could be seen weeping for their relatives who had made the supreme sacrifice, and generally the gladness manifested was tinged with sorrow for the fallen.’

Document of the Month, November 2018: a window to remember

Ahead of the centenary of the end of the First World War, Archive Assistant Sarah Ensor tells us about one record of how Essex people remembered their lost loved ones. Discover more First World War stories of Essex people and places on Saturday 10th November 2018 at ‘Is this really the last night?’ Remembering the end of the First World War.


This month is the centenary of the end of hostilities of the Great War. To some the Armistice was a reason for joyous celebration, but for the many who had lost loved ones it was a time tinged with sadness. The ultimate sacrifice made by people throughout the conflict was marked in many ways such as on stone war memorials in villages and towns, on memorial boards in schools and councils, and on plaques in churches and businesses.

The Reverend Robert Travers Saulez had been rector at St. Christopher’s in Willingale Doe from 1906. He and his wife Margaret had four children, three sons and a daughter. Their sons were all educated at Felsted School and then joined the army, serving overseas during the Great War.

Their middle son, Arthur Travers Saulez, was a major in the Royal Field Artillery and mentioned twice in Dispatches, before he was killed at the Battle of Arras on 22 April 1917. This service register for St Christopher’s, Willingale Doe,(D/P 338/1/14) shows that almost exactly one year later at 3.15pm on 22nd April 1918 a window in the church was unveiled in his honour, erected by the officers, NCOs and men of his Battery. The Illustrated London News of 8th June 1918 mentioned that it was the first representation of a man in khaki in stained glass.

The entry in the register notes that the church was crowded, and that ‘The band of the Royal Artillery accompanied the Hymns & played the Chopin Funeral March and other pieces. 2 Buglers played the Last Post.’

This entry from the service register for St Christopher’s, Willingale Doe, records a service to unveil a window in memorial to Major Arthur Travers Saulez on 22 April 1918, a year after he was killed in the Battle of Arras. Arthur’s father, Revd. Robert Travers Saulez, was the parish’s rector.

War Memorial window Saulez 1917

Memorial window to Arthur Travers Saulez at St Christopher’s church, Willingale Doe. It was reported at the time to be the first image of a man in khaki military uniform made in stained glass. Image by Paul HP on Flickr.

Arthur Saulez’s diary, with a pencil still in place at the week he was killed in April 1917

Arthur Saulez was aged 33 at the time of his death. His younger brother, Alfred Gordon Saulez, died in Baghdad while serving with the Army Service Corps in 1921, aged 35.

The Saulez brothers had maintained a correspondence with family members back home during the war and these form part of a collection held at ERO (D/DU 2948). We are grateful to the Friends of Historic Essex for acquiring the Saulez collection as part of the Essex Great War Archive Project and for subsequently paying for the cataloguing, conservation and storage of the letters. If you wish to find out more about this charity that supports the Essex Record Office please see their website.