By Tom Dare
INCREDIBLE PICTURES showing a victory parade through the streets of London to mark the end of the World War One have resurfaced this week, 100 years since one of the bloodiest conflicts in human history came to an end.
Images from the collection, taken over the course of several marches between the end of the war and July 1919, show the streets of London filled with thousands of adoring spectators as victorious regiments from Britain’s dominions were paraded past Buckingham Palace.
Soldiers from Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Britain and South Africa can all be seen marching through the almost-unrecognisable streets of the capital. Further pictures show military equipment captured from the Germans including guns and airplanes being shown to members of the public, while another sees members of the Women’s Auxiliary Army Corps marching proudly through Ludgate Circus.
Britain’s dominions played a crucial role in the allies’ victory in the First World War, with troops being sent from nearly 80 different countries from all over the world. Being independently governed meant that no nation was obliged to send men, but volunteers began to arrive in their droves to assist the allied effort. This included over 400,000 from Australia, 60,000 of whom were killed, 100,000 from New Zealand, which constituted approximately 10 per cent of the country’s entire population, and a staggering one and a half million men from India. Canada also contributed over 600,000 troops to the conflict, around 66,000 of whom were killed in action.
Dominion troops saw action in some of the First World War’s harshest conditions, including the campaigns in Galipoli, The Battle of the Somme and the Battle of Vimy Ridge. Indeed, dominion soldiers were often reported as being some of the hardiest men on the front, with troops from India alone receiving 13,000 medals for valour and bravery, including 12 Victoria Crosses.
Historian Santanu Das, who has written extensively about the First World War and the dominion’s role within it, perhaps best summed up their war effort when he said:
“For the different dominions, colonies and racial groups around the globe, the war experience was profoundly transformative at different levels. What are often considered sideshows in the grand European narrative of the war were momentous events with enduring consequences for the local communities. Nor, for many of these groups, did the war – at the basic, physical level – end with the Armistice.”
“While in popular memory, the perception of the First World War remains narrowly confined to the Western Front, First World War fighting took place in Europe, Africa and the Middle East, with brief excursions into Central Asia and the Far East.
“The litany of the names of different theatres of battle often becomes the marker for the ‘world’ nature of the First World War. The colonial homefront – the lives of hundreds of thousands of women and children in villages across Asia and Africa who lost their husbands, brothers or fathers, and faced different kinds of hardships – remains one of the most silent and under-researched areas in First World War history.”
Returning troops took place in a number of victory marches following the calling of the armistice on November 11 1918, including parades in May 1919 and July of the same year. The London Victory Parade, Anzac Day and the inspection of dominion troops by the king were all included in this.