History - All over by Christmas

Roy Peacock: 1914 – All Over By Christmas.

Roy Peacock was welcomed warmly for a return visit to the History Group, this time speaking on the topic of the source and start of the First World War: ‘1914 – All Over By Christmas’.

With his usual, and unusual ability, to deliver a detailed talk with hardly any reference to his notes, Roy explained the background situation in Europe at the time, with all the political intrigues, alliances, secret agreements, motives and interlocking relationships on both German and British sides. He highlighted the chief players on each side of the conflict, and their own political and geographical interests and then gave a comprehensive account of the incident that caused the ‘Great War’, the unexpected and ‘accidental’ assassination of the Archduke Rudolph, heir to the Austro-Hungarian Empire, at Sarajevo on June 28th 1914.

With the helpful addition of maps, provided by Roy for members of the Group, he then outlined the aftermath of this tragic event – the unfolding throughout Europe of hostilities which eventually involved the needless sacrifice of millions of lives. The maps and diagrams helped the History Group to visualise the plan of attack, advances, retreats and diversions during the early months of global conflict.

Roy emphasised the British commitment to Belgian neutrality, when invaded by Germany on their way to overrunning France. This aspect was the major issue that brought Great Britain into what was until then a continental issue.

Roy also brought in the local aspect, using contemporary sources of newspaper articles and interviews to enhance the regional impact of this War. One example of this was the death of two local soldiers from Kidderminster, both honoured on the War Memorial at St Mary’s Church. Lance Corporal J Thomason of the 9th Hussars was killed on August 21st 1914 and is commemorated on the Menin Gate Memorial at Ypres. Private T G Rutter, who died on 26th August 1914, within a week of Britain’s involvement in the conflict, was tragically killed by ‘friendly fire’ in the retreat from Mons.

Roy spoke with clarity and perception, as always, and began this year of Commemoration of the Commencement of the First World War in a fitting and well received manner.

 

Heidy Hague