When did the First World Ear end? The answer is, it depends on where you were living or stationed. It was only when I started researching Herne Hill’s casualties that I realised how many had died after 1918. Often it was as a result of disease, gassing or wounds sustained during 1914-18, but many were still fighting in battles long after the European war had ended. Some died during the 1920 Iraqi revolt against British rule, and at least one Herne Hill resident, a Captain Thomas Bailey, died fighting the Bolsheviks (in April 1919) and was buried in Archangel!
Of course the “textbook” answer is that the war was officially brought to an end by the Versailles Peace Treaty of 28 June 1919. It is little known (and not mentioned in his entry in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography) that Herne Hill resident George Nicoll Barnes was one of the signatories of the Treaty, alongside Lloyd George, Bonar Law and Balfour. Barnes, a Scottish Labour politician, joined Lloyd George’s war cabinet in 1916, and it was for that reason that he was present at Versailles. He is seated second from the right in the famous painting by William Orpen, who was commissioned to capture the occasion in the Hall of Mirrors.
George and Jessie Barnes lost their youngest son Henry in the war, killed in France in 1917. Second Lieutenant Henry Barnes’s life and death are described (as are those of Captain Thomas Bailey, above) on our Remembering Herne Hill 1914-18 website.
And so… it was almost exactly 100 years ago that the Great European War officially came to an end. Hundreds of war memorials were erected in churches, town halls, libraries, and outdoor spaces, such as cemeteries and village greens, across the British Empire and elsewhere.
As Chair of the Herne Hill Society, I’ve recently been talking to Southeastern Railway, who run Herne Hill station, about installing a memorial in the ticket hall. A little late, you might think?
Yes, there are individual memorials in local churches and elsewhere to men who lost their lives, but nothing to commemorate all the people of Herne Hill. The station, at the heart of our community and a place through which countless men must have passed on their to the Channel ports and thence to France and Flanders, seems singularly suited for a permanent memorial.
The proposed text of the new memorial follows. You may recognise the short quotation from Philip Larkin’s poem “MCMXIV”.
Herne Hill 1914-1918
In memory of all the people of Herne Hill who suffered in consequence of the war, including more than 500 who lost their lives
Never such innocence again
This stone was placed here in 2019 on behalf of
The Herne Hill Society * The Charter School North Dulwich * London & South Eastern Railway Limited
Calligrapher and stone-carver Mark Brooks has been commissioned to design and produce a hand-carved Welsh slate plaque, generously paid for by Southeastern Railway.
It would be marvellous to be able to repeat last year’s Armistice Centenary commemoration, but with the addition of a new memorial, unveiled on Remembrance Day 2019.