'Peace Celebrations Indian Troops Marching Down Whitehall', 1919
Oil on canvas by Dora Meeson (Coates 1869-1955), 1919.
Although the First World War officially ended on 11 November 1918, the Treaty of Versailles was not signed until June 1919. In Britain, the conclusion of hostilities was celebrated on Saturday 19 July, with a Victory Parade in London as the main event. A camp for troops taking part in the Parade was set up in Kensington Gardens, while thousands of civilians flocked to the capital for the festivities.
A cenotaph (or empty tomb) was designed by the architect, Sir Edwin Lutyens, for the marching troops to salute in Whitehall, to honour the dead. His design, strikingly minimalist but non-denominational, was represented by a temporary structure on the day. The permanent stone memorial was unveiled on Armistice Day 1920.
Nearly 15,000 servicemen took part in the Parade, led by Allied leaders such as Haig, Foch and Pershing. Among the troops were Commonwealth forces such as the Indian Contingent seen here. 'The Morning Post' recorded that:
'Near the memorial there were moments of silence when the dead seemed very near, when one almost heard the passage of countless wings - were not the fallen gathering in their hosts to receive their comrades' salute and take their share in the triumph they had died to win?
Celebrations and memorial services took place all over the country, but there was some criticism that this was inappropriately extravagant when so many ex-servicemen remained unemployed, and living in misery. In Manchester, demobilised soldiers marched to demand 'work not charity', and 'Honour the dead - remember the living'.
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