1919 – AFTER THE GREAT WAR
Medina was the last city of the Turkish Empire to fall to the Allies and the Arab states in the Great War. Fakhri Pasha was the commander of the Turkish army and Governor of Medina from 1916 to 1919. From 1916, Medina had been besieged by the Arab armies, who had previously been a part of the Turkish Empire and had revolted against the Turkish Sultan. Pasha had been ordered to defend the holy city of Medina and to protect the single-track narrow gauge Hejaz Railway on which his entire logistics depended. The railway was constantly subjected to sabotage attacks by Arabs led by Lawrence of Arabia (T.E.Lawrence). When the Turkish Empire withdrew from the Great War on the 30th October 1918, it was expected Pasha would also surrender. He refused to do so and simply refused to accept the Armistice of Mudros. He is reputed to have had a vision, in a dream, from the Prophet Mohammed who had ordered him not to submit. He refused the direct order, from the Turkish Minister of war, to hand over his sword. The Turkish Government was upset by his behaviour and he was dismissed from his post, but he again refused to obey the decision. He kept the flag of the Turkish Sultan high in Medina until 72 days after the end of the war between Turkey and the Allies. Eventually Pasha and his men were faced with starvation and the remaining garrison surrendered on the 10th January 1919. Abdullah I of Jordan and his troops entered Medina on the 13th January 1919.
The Peace Conference opened on the 18th January 1919 in Paris. Initially delegates from twenty seven nations participated in the negotiations but Germany, Austria, and Hungary were excluded. Russia was also excluded as they had negotiated a separate peace with Germany in 1918 when they signed the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk. The conference eventually comprised delegates from Britain, France, the United States and Italy. The four main negotiators of the “big four” were: – David Lloyd George of Britain, Georges Clemenceau of France, Woodrow Wilson of the United States and Vittorio Orlando of Italy. Negotiations between the “big four” did not go smoothly. Wilson believed the fourteen point plan he had proposed would bring stability to Europe and Germany expected a treaty based on these fourteen points. The French wanted the defeated nations to be severely punished and believed Wilson’s plan too lenient. The British public also wanted Germany to be severely punished although Lloyd George had similar views to Wilson. An agreement was finally reached after prolonged discussions but it was a compromise that left nobody happy with the outcome. One of proposals was to create the League of Nations, which was accepted on the 25th January 1919. When Germany complained about the severity of the Treaty of Versailles, they were reminded of the harshness of the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk they imposed on the Russians in March 1918. Germany tried to have a number of articles withdrawn in June 1919 but they received a reply that they would have to accept the treaty within twenty four hours, or face an invasion of Allied armies across the Rhine. Germany reluctantly agreed to sign the treaty.
The Germans were summoned to Versailles to sign the treaty (Treaty of Versailles) on 28th June 1919, which was officially the end of the Great War. The signing date was significant as it was five years to the day that Franz Ferdinand of Austria was assassinated in June 1914. During the war, John Pershing, the American commander, continued his American offensive against the Germans on the 11th November 1918 until the 11.00 am ceasefire. He was convinced that unless Germany unconditionally surrendered on German soil they would not accept they had lost the war. With this in mind he argued that within twenty years Germany would become a warring nation again and the war would have to be fought a second time. After the signing of the Treaty of Versailles, Winston Churchill came to a similar conclusion but for a different reason. He argued Germany would end up bankrupt if the financial reparation terms were implemented, another regime would rise up to take Germany to war again. Both arguments were ignored and the treaty conditions were imposed. Indirectly, the signing of the Treaty of Versailles was the beginning of the Second World War although hostilities did not begin until September 1939. The final treaty bore little resemblance to Wilson’s fourteen points.
Germany ratified the Treaty of Versailles on the 8th July 1919 and the United Kingdom ratified the Treaty on the 21st July 1919. However, as later events were to establish Germany was neither pacified nor conciliated, and the subsequent political events would lead to the Second World War.
On the 21st June 1919, the scuttling of the German fleet took place at the Royal Navy’s base at Scappa Flow in Scotland, after the Great War. The German High Seas Fleet was interned there under the terms of the armistice whilst negotiations took place over the fate of the ships. The German High Seas Fleet had surrendered and been escorted into the Firth of Forth on the 21st November 1918 and moved to Scappa Flow between the 25th to the 27th November 1918. During the negotiations over the fate of the ships and fearing the ships would be seized and divided amongst the Allied powers, German commander, Admiral Ludwig von Reuter, decided to scuttle the fleet. When the scuttling was carried out on the 21st June 1919, intervening British guard ships were able to beach a number of the ships, but 52 of the 74 interred vessels sank. Many of the vessels were salvaged over the next two decades and were towed away for scrapping.
A Banquet in Honour of The President of the French Republic was hosted by King George V and held at Buckingham Palace during the evening of the 10th November 1919. The very first Armistice Day was held in the Grounds of Buckingham Palace on the morning of the 11th November 1919. This set the trend for a day of Remembrance or Remembrance Day for decades to follow. However, a wood and plaster temporary Cenotaph was erected in Whitehall, London, following an outbreak of national sentiment in 1919. It was replaced by a Portland Stone structure and built between 1919 and 1920 as the United Kingdom’s national war memorial. The Remembrance Day ceremony, to commemorate the Armistice, is conducted on the Sunday closest to the 11th November each year.