The 11th of November 1918 wasn’t the end. It really wasn’t the end at all.
Of course, this famous date marks the armistice; a cease in hostilities, but the battle to forge the peace then had to begin. We’ll leave that to the politicians. You can find out how they got on by visiting our Aftermath exhibition.
In more practical terms, the end of the war meant the the task of getting hundreds of thousands of soldiers home, or in some cases, on to their next theatre of operations, had to begin.
We’re lucky enough to have, in the museum collection, the diary of Stanley Harrison.
We’re going to be hearing from Stanley every day through to Christmas Day to get an insight into what the end of the war meant for one particular soldier, and how they would approach the first peacetime Christmas for four years.
But there’s a twist…
When Stanley joined the 6th Battalion of the Yorkshire Regiment, the war had less than two months left to run, but Stanley’s service would take him north, beyond the Arctic circle and much further than the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918.
Time to meet Stanley…
Born on 29 July 1899, Stanley Nunn Harrison was the son of shopkeepers in Kimberley, on the outskirts of Nottingham. He left school at 14 and was employed in a junior position at a lace warehouse.
On 12th April, 1915, Stanley presented himself as a volunteer at the recruiting tent in Nottingham’s Market Square.
On being asked his age, he gave this correctly as 15 years and 9 months, whereupon the Officer genially told him to “have a walk round lad, and come back when you’re 17”.
Stanley did just that – he walked around the square and went back to the recruiting tent again. The Officer asked him how old he was this time, to which Stanley replied “Seventeen, sir.” As a result, Stanley became Private No. 1688 with the South Nottinghamshire Hussars.
After 86 days service, and on parade one morning, he was ordered to ‘fall out’ and told that his mother had sent his birth certificate to the War Office and requested his release from service as under-age. Back at home, he joined the St. John Ambulance Service.
On 7th August 1915, he wrote to the Nottingham Evening Post:
I was discharged from a local regiment about a month ago, being claimed out by my parents, as I was only 16. I look easily 18 or 19, and although I have tried to serve my King and country, I am continually being told I ought to enlist…..It is about time badges were given or some distinction made between triers and slackers.
I am Sir…….
Stanley enlisted again in August 1917, at the age of 18, in the Sherwood Foresters 7th Reserve, and was transferred to the 6th Yorkshire Regiment in September 1918. On 16th October 1918, the Regiment embarked for operations in Russia.
He returned to Britain in September 1919 and was demobilised in December 1919. His two ‘best pals’ from school had been killed in the trenches and both parents died in 1921 from Spanish flu. Government grants enabled him to benefit from higher education at Loughborough College, studying economics and commerce, which led to a career in the Civil Service. Whilst at college he met his future wife and they married in 1926. Stanley died in 1954.
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