Tonight we are looking at the first of several documents from the Ernest Burton Whittle collection I picked up last Tuesday. This letter was sent to him a week after the declaration of the Armistice in 1918 and gives some details of how people back home felt about the coming of peace. The letter is in an envelope most marked 18th November 1918 and was sent from Eastbourne to Seaman Whittle at HMS Vernon in Portsmouth:The letter inside is on two pieces of very thin paper and written in a (mostly) legible hand in brown ink:The letter reads:
My Dear Burton
Thank you very much for your interesting letter. How delighted you must have been when peace was declared and to think that the U Boat danger is gone forever. I suppose though there will be a good deal of work minesweeping before the seas are really clear and made safe. I wonder if you are continuing your course of instruction. Yes I have no doubt it was very interesting and made a fine change from sea life. Fancy your ship carrying as many as 60 depth charges altogether making 18,000lbs of high explosive.
You will be pleased to hear that we have had two cards from Robert within the last few days. At least one was addressed to Ethel and she sent it on to us this morning. He must have had a very hard time as he had not received any letters or parcels at the moment of writing. Just now his lead camp is many miles into Germany so we cannot expect him home for a few weeks yet. It will be a time of rejoicing for all when he does return.
I believe the great convalescent camp here at Summerdown will be used to take some of the prisoners many of whom will be greatly in need of rest and recuperation after their terrible experience.
I daresay the majority will want a good deal of attention before they are fit to take their furlough with their relatives.
Everybody seems very happy and pleased now the fighting is over so much quicker than anyone ever thought for a few months ago and the soldiers at the camps especially were very exuberant in their rejoicing.
We are all about as usual and trust you are keeping well
Your affectionate cousin
The letter highlights the rejoicing and happiness of people, both servicemen and civilians, when the armistice was declared in 1918. It is interesting to note that the writer of the letter describes it as a peace rather than an armistice and I suspect that most ordinary people felt it was the end of the conflict rather than just a pause as it might have been. It is also interesting that in the week since the 11th November not only has the British Army advanced into Germany, but letters detailing the events have had time to return to Great Britain.
We will return to another set of documents from this fascinating collection soon.