By BRIAN KRAPF
The focus of this month’s article is an exciting pair of surviving souvenirs from a speech delivered by Churchill during the very early days of the Great War. Specifically, these include the event program and bearer’s pass to attend the September 11, 1914 “Monster Demonstration” for “London’s Call to Arms.”
The event was sponsored by the Joint Committee of the Liberal Club and Constitutional Club. Winston Churchill, First Lord of the Admiralty and a Liberal MP, delivered the keynote address. The pass and program are, in their own right, very special pieces of Churchilliana and Great War memorabilia. They are made even more desirable and rare, however, by a handwritten note that records an attendee’s recollection of Churchill’s speech! After attending the event, the writer penned the following:
“Auntie, Uncle and I went to this meeting. Auntie and I had seats on the stage. The audience was most enthusiastic. Not a seat was vacant and many were standing. From Winston Churchill’s speech we gathered that the war will be a long one and we shall have many trials and reverses but in the end we shall win. In his speech he said amongst many other things ‘It is quite clear that what is happening now is not what the Germans planned. But if this battle has been as disastrous as, Thank G-d, it has been triumphant, I should come before you with unabated confidence.’”
Keep in mind that Britain had entered the Great War only a month prior to this rally. On August 4, Britain declared war on Germany. On August 7, just three days later, the first British troops landed in France. On August 12, Britain declared war on Austria-Hungary. The battle referred to by Churchill must have been the Battle of the Marne, which took place September 5-12 on the Western Front. Paris was saved as British and French troops launched a major counter offensive against invading German troops. Reconnaissance revealed a gap in the center of the German advance, which was exploited by British and French forces, causing the Germans to withdraw. Hence, Churchill’s comment “….. what is happening now is not what the Germans planned….”
In the ensuing months, many such rallies would be held throughout Britain to answer “Lord Kitchener’s Call to Arms.” These relics, however, remain after one of the earliest of such rallies and one which included an appearance and speech by the Great Man early in his career. These items were recently discovered in London and I am honoured to conserve them in my collection.
Brian Krapf is a past President of the American Political Items Collectors.