Sunday Up at 6:30 passed a fair night in a soft bed twas great Busy all morning cleaning up. Very cold wind blew all day. We expect to move toward the Rhine in two days Am well No [Canadian] mail
No Canadian mail, but Percy is writing to Janie. “Well for the first time I can write free and uncensored letters.” You can read the whole letter here.
Like Percy, Joseph Clearihue has good things to say about his billet: he has a “comfortable bed with bed clothes and a warm room.” He notices what others have said, too, that Belgium fared far better under German occupation than did France. “There are chickens, cars, and cattle here which is a wonder as the Germans carried off everything. They have evidently treated the Belgians better than the French,” he says. (1) There are even “splendid chocolates” available, at least to officers. Clearihue got some through his Battery’s Auxiliary fund, whatever that is. “We thoroughly enjoyed them,” he noted. (2)
“The Boche made himself very agreeable,” says Livesay. “All this was policy. Until the past few months the Boche counted on incorporating three Belgian provinces in the Fatherland. …Yet cajoleries failed here as completely as did intimidation and terror” in France. Under the prosperous surface, however, there is still misery: refugees and beggars crowd the streets, and some local families (whose men had refused to work in the factories under the Germans) have not seen their providers since, and are destitute. (3)
Into the mix come British prisoners of war, released without provisions and told to find their own way back to Allied lines. “They are dressed in many sorts of uniforms,” says Clearihue, but they are “delighted to be returning. They are all very tired out.”(4)
The immediate repatriation of prisoners of war is another term of the armistice. The return of German POWs is not yet happening; rules for that will be established “at the conclusion of the preliminaries of peace.”
And yet another term is being observed: a couple of days ago “Enemy Engineer Officers are at work in our lines pointing out location of Mines.” (5) Under penalty of reprisals, the Germans had 48 hours from the signing of the armistice to “reveal all mines or delayed action fuses on territory evacuated by the German troops,” to assist in destroying them, and to disclose “all destructive measures that may have been taken (such as poisoning or polluting of springs and wells, etc.).”
This Sunday morning there is an unusual sound in the city of Mons: “O Canada” peals from the bell tower where the “carillon player, sweat pouring from his forehead… plies his ponderous handwrought iron levers, creaking primitive mechanical devices.” (6) It is the end of a service of thanksgiving for victory, at which are remembered “fifty thousand Canadians [who] cannot take part in this service” and the “thousands more who must return maimed and crippled. …We can best requite them,” says the preacher, “by carrying back with us the high ideal that has made the Canadian Corps a shining sword of righteousness.” (7)
The photograph shows of a Canadian soldier, under the watchful gaze of its father, holding a Belgian child who was injured by the same shellfire that killed its mother. Library and Archives Canada, MIKAN 3194345.
The photograph (MIKAN 3397228) is labelled “Belgian lady returns to her home after being taken to Germany to work on the land.”
(1) Clearihue, Joseph B. Diary. Transcript. November 17, 1918. Joseph Badenoch Clearihue fonds, University of Victoria Archives.
(2) Clearihue, November 15, 1918.
(3) Livesay, J.F.B. Canada’s Hundred Days: With the Canadian Corps from Amiens to Mons, Aug. 8-Nov. 11, 1918. 1919. 395.
(4) Clearihue, November 16, 1918.
(5) War Diary of the 14th Brigade, Canadian Field Artillery. Vol. 22: 6. November 14, 1918. Library and Archives of Canada.
(6) Livesay, 398.
(7) Livesay, 399.
Copyright 2018. See “More about this project.”