Century-old message to British troops ordering a ceasefire on November 11, 1918 discovered

Posted on 08/11/2018 in Press Coverage

A rare and timely reminder of the importance of honouring all those who gave their lives in war on November 11 has been unearthed.

An original First World War despatch rider message delivered to troops to order a ceasefire at 11am on November 11, 1918 has been discovered by Derbyshire’s Hansons Auctioneers.

As the country prepares to mark Remembrance Sunday this weekend - 100 years after the Great War drew to a close - the century-old piece of paper shows the precise instructions given to the 59th Division in France on the day that ended ‘the war to end all wars’.

It belonged to Corporal George Charles Goulding. Charlie, as he was known, served in the Signals Section during the 1914-18 Great War in France and was despatched on his motorbike to deliver the most important message of all – an order to end hostilities. The First World War killed nine million military personnel and around seven million civilians.

It will be sold alongside Charlie’s First World War British War Medal and Victory Medal, wartime photos and a tin containing pictures of his wife, Mary – known as Minn - who served in the Dublin Red Cross.

Reminding us of the heartache of war, which tore loved ones apart, is a postcard to Minn from France, written when they were sweethearts. It says simply: “Fondest love for my own darling. XXXXXX. Charlie’. The collection of wartime memorabilia will be auctioned on November 22 with an estimate of £50-£100.

Adrian Stevenson, militaria expert at Hansons, in Heage Lane, Etwall, near Derby, said: “This is a very rare item. Corporal Goulding served in the Signals Section as a despatch rider. The message, which was due to be delivered at 9am on November 11, 1918 was labelled ‘Priority’.”

The ‘A Form Messages and Signals’ note reads: ‘Hostilities will cease at 1100 today Nov. 11. Troops will stand fast in present positions. 178th Brigade will continue to hold outpost position until units of 74th Div. have established line further East and in front of them. Touch will be gained with flanking formations. Line to be reported to DHQ. Precautions will be preserved and there will be no communication with the enemy…”

Mr Stevenson said: “There would have been many messages like this sent out to British divisions in France on November 11, 1918 but, of course, not many will have survived for a century.

“Who knows how our soldiers must have felt when they received this message after four years of bloody conflict – shocked and stunned rather than elated, perhaps.

“The toll of the First World War was immense, not just in terms of lives lost. Many men came back with horrific injuries, shell shock and psychological damage which blighted the rest of their lives.”

The vendor of the wartime memorabilia, who wished to remain anonymous, said: “Charles was my late husband’s grandfather. He was from Porthill, Newcastle-under-Lyme, Staffordshire.

“He was stationed in Dublin for a time, where he met Mary, or Minn. She was a Roman Catholic girl and marrying an English soldier did not go down well with her family.

“After the war he became a mining engineer and settled in Audley, near Newcastle-under-Lyme. He married Minn in 1920. Sadly, Charles died at the age of 52 due to a severe asthma attack. My husband inherited the items.

“I often wonder how Charlie came to keep the message. I think he must have handed it to the officer in charge, who read it swiftly then, unthinkingly gave it back to him. Such was the enormity of the moment.”

The George Charles Goulding war memorabilia, which also includes cap badge, ID disks, 13 photos of him and his unit, his future wife’s VAD/Red Cross insignia and photos, a Trench Art wooden money box marked ‘Souvenir World War’ and an embroidered tea cosy given as a wedding present in 1920, will be sold on November 22, 2018, in a Medals and Militaria Auction at Hansons Auctioneers, Heage Lane, Etwall, Derbyshire. To find out more, email [email protected] or call 01283 733988.