My grandfather’s notebook, written in the days following the Armistice on November 11th, 1918.
This is an edited repost of my first post on Substack one year ago on November 11, 2022.
Veteran’s Day in the US is Remembrance Day in the UK and Commonwealth member nations. Both holidays originated as Armistice Day, remembering November 11th, 1918, when the armistice ending hostilities in the Great War was signed. It’s also my mother’s birthday. She would have been 102 this year.
Looking through a box of photographs while clearing out my late parents’ house, I found my grandfather Richard Lovie’s notebook from the time of the Armistice. He was serving in the British Army in France at the time, and soon received orders to march to Germany. Born in 1896, he would have been twenty-two when he wrote this.
Here’s the text from the notebook. In three and a half pages, written in pencil, he listed the places they stayed. I’ve corrected the placenames to make them easier to find.
Places visited and remarks
Nov 11th 1918 Armistice signed working on pontoon bridge at Louvroil lots of flags and arches put out. Started our march to the Rhine from Sailly au Bois on Nov 16th 1918 and were at Surfontaine (Belgium) on Nov 17th. we went from there to Leers et Fosteau Nov 18th Fontenelle on Nov 20th Acoz Nov 22nd 1918 Mettet Nov 24th 1918 from there we marched to one of the largest of the Belgian Monasteries at a place called Denée Abbey Maredsous where the bells were very well chimed the first time for 4 years, and we were taken round. Houx Nov 26th 1918 Cinery Nov 27th 1918 I was on guard. on from here we marched to the Chateau Fontain Lihon. (Haversin) Dec 7th 1918. Bavaux-Condoz 10th Dec 1918 Dec 11th Benda 1918. Ferrières 12 Dec 1918 Forges 13 Dec 1918 Grand Halleux 14th Dec Ville Du Bois (Vielsalm) Dec 16th 1918. Deidenberg our first night in Germany on Dec 17th 1918 I was corporal of the first guard in Germany. Wirtzeld in the office to work. Arrived at Hellenthal Dec 21st 1918. leaves to England started again. Moved to Riefferscheid Eifel (Riverside Tower) billeted in a schoolroom at the top of a hill Dec 22nd 1918 We arrived at Call on Dec 23rd 1918 and were billeted in a room in a hotel where we had a piano. On Dec 24th we marched to a place called Louvenich where we were billeted at a farm, our section in four billets. Christmas day at Louvenich and we had a good dinner given to us by the people where we were staying. Still in the same place, joined the section again. Dec 27th.
From: Richard Lovie, notebook
My grandfather didn’t have Strava, so I’ve helped him out by recreating the route of his march from France through Belgium into Germany. It was a foot slog. 324 miles, and over 18000 feet of elevation.
Tucked in the back of the notebook were a few pieces of paper and some newspaper clippings. Among them was a copy of the Fourth Army’s Marching Orders for the march to the Rhine.
Also tucked in the back was a yellowed typewritten copy of the words to “Peaceful Night”, better known as “Silent Night”, or in the original German, “Stille Nacht”, the words adapted to the reality of life in the trenches.
During the Christmas truce of 1914 in the trenches of the Great War, British and German soldiers would shake hands, exchange cigarettes and even play football, soccer for my American readers. The truce started on Christmas Eve, a moonlit frosty night. British and German troops took turns singing carols, joining together to sing “Peaceful Night/Stille Nacht” in English and German.
Perhaps my grandfather’s platoon sang it with their German hosts on Christmas Eve, 1918. I choose to believe that they did. I’m glad my grandfather chose to keep that piece of paper. This year more than ever.
Thank you for reading.