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Paul Roberts

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Special service in Devon to mark centenary of official end of Great War

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syd

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There was jubilation as the guns finally fell silent on the Great War battlefields on November 11, 1918.

But the war was not over when the firing stopped. There was still one more battle to fight – for a peace agreement.

Many of our soldiers remained ‘on duty’ on the Western Front, in Italy, Egypt, Palestine and Mesopotamia for months after the Armistice.

Countless numbers were still listed as ‘missing in action’ and the fate of many British prisoners of war was unknown as peace talks began.

Spanish flu – which killed millions of soldiers and civilians across the world – was still wreaking havoc in the United Kingdom.

After 229 days of complex and frequently acrimonious negotiations, the war finally ended at 3.12pm on Saturday, June 28, 1919.

When a peace treaty between Germany and the Allied Powers was signed in the Hall of Mirrors at the Palace of Versailles, near Paris.

The signing took place exactly five years after the incident that directly led to the war – the assassination in Sarajevo of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne.

News of the breakthrough reached Devon 30 minutes later – via a telephone call to The Western Times’ headquarters in Exeter.

Within minutes, details were posted on the windows of the newspaper offices. And then the celebrations began.

Flags and bunting were flown in virtually every community in Devon. Tens of thousands of people took part in parades and attended thanksgiving services in hundreds of churches and chapels.

Bands played stirring music in the streets, people danced with joy everywhere – and there was a spectacular 101-gun salute in Plymouth.

This historic day will be marked at a special service being held in Witheridge in Devon on Friday, June 28 to commemorate the centenary of the official end of the Great War.

The Bishop of Crediton, Jackie Searle, is giving the address and the blessing at the service which is taking place at 2pm at St John the Baptist Parish Church.

Veterans of the Devon and Dorset Regiment Association and members of the Royal British Legion will be among those attending.

Children of Witheridge Church of England Primary Academy will be reading and singing In Flanders Fields and Make Me a Channel of Your Peace.

I will be giving a short presentation on the Devonshire Regiment, who lost almost 6,000 officers and men in the war.

The service is believed to be the only one of its kind to be held in Devon and beyond.

A cream tea and cake celebration will follow at the Parish Hall in Witheridge.

All are welcome.

The picture shows Pte Thomas Roberts of Witheridge who remained in Italy with the 8th Devons for many months after the Armistice of 1918. Thomas was one of 30 grandsons of farm labourer John Roberts who went to war

P22 - THOMAS ROBERTS.jpg

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