‘Reflecting on the Great War Today’

15th February 2018 in Archives Centre, Art & Exhibitions, Our Collections

Archives display marking the seventeenth Stephen Roskill Memorial lecture and the centenary of the end of the First World War.

As part of the seventeenth Stephen Roskill Memorial lecture, Margaret MacMillan discussed how the Great War is reflected on today. As this year marks the centenary of the end of the First World War, her talk focussed on the significance and legacy of the conflict and its aftermath. The Churchill Archives Centre curated a display that illustrated these issues based on a selection of material from its collections.

Evening Standard, 1918


The display opened with a copy of the Evening Standard from the 11th November 1918, which announced the end of the First World War. Cunninghame Graham Papers (ANCG II 1/4).

Another key item of the display was a copy of the Treaty of Versailles from 1919, which belonged to Philip Noel-Baker. Noel-Baker attended the Paris Peace Conference as a member of the League of Nations’ Section of the British Delegation.

Treaty of Versailles, 1919


Treaty of Versailles, 1919. Noel-Baker Papers (NBKR 4/264).

The display also featured a number of cinematic photographs that illustrated the aftermath of the First World War. The photographs were taken with a personal camera by Sir William Bull, who was working as Walter Long’s Parliamentary Private Secretary in 1919 when Long became First Lord of the Admiralty. Bull took the photographs in early 1919 during their visit to war damaged sites in Belgium, and subsequently used them as illustrations for his diary.

Ostend, 1919


Photograph number 10 shows a view of Ostend and depicts the British politicians’ car in the foreground. Bull Papers (BULL 4/19, photograph 10).

Ypres, 1919


Photograph number 11 shows a view of Ypres and a Red Cross van near the ruins of St. Martin’s Cathedral. Bull Papers (BULL 4/19, photograph 11a).

St Martin's Cathedral, Ypres, 1919


Photograph number 12 is another view of the ruins of St Martin’s Cathedral. Bull Papers (BULL 4/19, photograph 12).

Ypres, 1919


Photograph number 15 shows part of a battlefield in Ypres and a meeting between the British politicians and members of the Allied forces who remained stationed at the Front with German Prisoners of War. Bull Papers (BULL 4/19, photograph 15).

A document covering some of the key decisions that were made after the war is the printed copy of agreements between the Allied forces and the German government concerning reparations after the First World War. On display were the first pages of the 1924 ‘League of Nations Treaty No. 36’, published in English and French.

League of Nations Treaty


League of Nations Treaty. Amery Papers (AMEL 1/3/71).

Other material related to the peace negotiations after the First World War was taken from the Malkin collection. William Malkin joined the Foreign Office in 1911 and was Assistant Legal Adviser from 1914 to 1925. In 1919, he attended the Paris Peace Conference and kept numerous items related to this event. His official papers about the Paris Peace Conference also include memorabilia, such as his pass and an invitation to the signing of the treaty.

Versailles pass


Versailles Conference pass. Malkin Papers (MALK 15).

Versailles invitation


Versailles Conference invitation. Malkin Papers (MALK 15).

A letter from Maurice Hankey, the Cabinet Secretary, which he wrote to his daughter Ursula during the signing of the peace treaty on the 28th June 1919, gave the illustration of historic events a personal note.

Letter about Versailles


Letter from Maurice Hankey. Hankey Papers (HNKY 4/11).

A striking item from the display was a memorandum by Lloyd George, British Prime Minister at the time. In 1919, thirty years before the outbreak of the Second World War, Lloyd George claimed that “it is […] comparatively easy to patch up a peace which will last for thirty years.” He first noted his thoughts in his memorandum ‘Some considerations for the Peace Conference before they finally draft their terms’ and later published them in his memoirs. Maurice Hankey was among a select group who received this secret memo in 1919. Churchill also quotes Lloyd George’s memorandum extensively in The World Crisis. Volume IV: The Aftermath.

Memorandum on Versailles


Memorandum on Versailles by Maurice Hankey. Hankey Papers (HNKY 8/12/1).

The Churchill Archives Centre holds a number of collections related to the First World War. Subject guides to the Archives Centre’s holdings related to the First World War, political life and government policy during the war, the Dardanelles, the Western Front and naval strategy can be found online.

— Julia Schmidt.

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