John's real-time WW1 blog: New editor’s unwitting warning to avoid ‘a dark future’ which we now know became the Second World War

John Dilley
John Dilley

October 8, 1918...

There is a hint of triumphalism in an editorial headlined The Climax of the War in the October 8, 1918, edition of the Market Harborough Advertiser.

The headline heralding the climax of the war

The headline heralding the climax of the war

It begins: “The war has now, we may venture to state, reached its climax. Indeed there is every sign that the supreme crisis is past in the brilliant series of events which have unfolded themselves with such bewildering rapidity in the fortnight which has just elapsed.

“As offensive after offensive has been launched with such astonishing success in every theatre of war the profound genius of allied strategy has revealed itself and there are few indeed who would now be found to engage in niggling criticism of the conduct of operations.”

The editorial goes on to tick off the victories:

- The surrender of the Bulgarians which will deal a ‘fatal blow’ to the ‘German aspirations in the east’

Photographs of captured German troops were intended to boost morale at home.

Photographs of captured German troops were intended to boost morale at home.

- General Allenby’s ‘magnificent drive in Palestine’ which has forced the Turkish empire to throw in the towel

- And the remarkable advances of ‘our gallant forces’ who are ‘shattering the German army on the Western Front’

And with hindsight, we know the editorial writer is absolutely right and the bells of peace will be ringing in just 34 days.

As 21st century readers, we also equally know that the editorial is right in saying ‘this is not the moment for the Allies to slack off’.

The article quotes the Prime Minister David Lloyd George who says: “It is not enough to reach the heights where we can see the plains of victory at our feet. We must occupy them. This will cost much patient effort but it is worth it.”

With chilling prescience, Lloyd George says: “Partial victory would be a suspended disaster. It merely adjourns the decision to a dark future, it would secure nothing.”

And, in fact, we now know that although there is an ‘unconditional’ surrender of sorts on November 11, the messed up settlement at the Treaty of Versailles in the following year and the birth of the toothless League of Nations in 1920 is exactly what Lloyd George feared. And, of course, a mere two decades later Europe – and then the rest of the world – was plunged into yet another global conflagration.

The publication of the editorial column under the Advertiser masthead is a first for the newspaper and is probably deliberately introduced by the new editor Mr Geo Brookes, who also introduces himself in a sidebar story describing his parting gift from colleagues at the Birmingham Gazette where he had worked for two years. He replaces Mr W N Gosnell as the Advertiser’s editor but there is no other mention of his departure.

Brookes, however, does not tinker with the now established format of including the Press Bureau-supplied War Supplement which includes a range of stories and photographs like the one above, once again reinforcing the editorial that Germany forces are on the knees.

- This column is published every Monday by John Dilley on the Newspapers and the Great War website and will continue until the 100th anniversary of the final armistice in November 2018.

- My fellow researcher and De Montfort University lecturer David Penman is conducting a similar real-time project with the Ashbourne Telegraph. Check out his Great War Reports.

- Check out this week’s Harborough Mail for current news from the Market Harborough area.