Category Archives: News from the war

A logo with the words "Ringing for Peace - Armistice 100" and a swinging church bell

11:00, 11/11/1918: Armistice

At about 05:20 on the morning of 11 November 1918, in a railway carriage in the Forest of Compiègne, the final signature went on to the papers detailing the terms of the Armistice with Germany. To allow time to ensure the details could be communicated to all troops, it was agreed that the Armistice would take effect at 11am. This was the last of a series of Armistices that largely brought active hostilities to an end. However, it was not a formal peace (treaties would only be signed in 1919), and British troops continued to fight in Russia (where an intervention force had been sent to support the anti-Bolshevik “White Russian” forces), and would be drawn into more colonial conflicts on the Northwestern frontier of India (in what’s now Pakistan) and Afghanistan.

Surrey ringers would be drawn in to both those theatres, with some of the Territorials sent to India on garrison duty shortly after the outbreak of war drawn into the fighting there, while Frederick Coleman of Epsom would come home from service with the Royal Army Medical Corps to find that his marriage had broken down. It was presumably as a result of that that he re-enlisted in the Military Foot Police and served with the British force based around the Black Sea.

Curiously, some war diaries for units on the Western Front barely mention the Armistice, but at home there was rejoicing, with bell ringing prominent. As mentioned before on the blog that will also be the case this year. The Ringing Remembers campaign which aimed to recruit 1400 new ringers to “replace” those lost in the war has in fact had over 2,600 registrations.

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Ernest Attwater joins up

On 10 September 1914 Ernest Attwater’s attestation papers were formally approved by a major in the Royal Sussex Regiment. He had been medically examined at Haywards Heath (where he had been a member of the local Territorial Force company for three years prior to his move to London from Cuckfield) as early as 5 September, and had then completed the attestation papers at Chichester on 9 September. He was posted to 9th Battalion, one of the newly raised battalions of Kitchener’s New Army. He became Private 3305, but with his prior TF experience it’s no great surprise that he was promoted lance corporal as early as 12 October (NCOs were in short supply). He stated his age as 25 years, 220 days, and gave his occupation as carpenter and pro cricketer (he was on Surrey’s ground staff at the Oval).

It’s possible his brother Frank Norman joined up at the same time, but as he ended up in 3rd (Special Reserve) Battalion, it’s not absolutely clear (and his papers do not survive). Certainly both brothers were serving by 30 October when The Ringing World reported that Frank Norman was at Dover with 3rd Battalion, and Ernest was at Shoreham with 9th Battalion.

This would have been a blow for both Streatham towers, Immanuel an St Leonard, as with their other brothers, Louis and Isaac James, the Attwaters had become leading ringers in the area.