Sunday Dec 16th, 1917
Guard 8-10. 2-4 finished guard – not sorry. Rumour peace five day cessation of hostilities. Hope it is true. Handed ammunition in. Poor Sunday, boxing contest on board. God help us.
The rumour of peace that Frank mentions was probably triggered by the Armistice, signed the day before, between the Russian Bolshevik Government and the Central Powers. It would come into force the following day, at noon on December 17th. Troops remained on the Eastern Front, though fighting had already ceased. There would be one last resumption of hostilities in mid- February 1918, unfortunately after Russia had disbanded its Army.
Peace was formally reached amongst the parties in early March 1918 with the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk. The terms of the Treaty ceded significant territory from the former Russian Empire to, ostensibly, independent rule (Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Belarus and Ukraine). It also freed the Central Powers from fighting on the Eastern Front and ensured the release of prisoners of war, including over 600,000 Austrians. In reality, scared of the ‘Red Army’ threat and enticed by the opportunity to access supplies, the Central Powers left a significant number of troops in the East. Regardless, the formal closure of the Eastern Front was to prove a huge challenge to the Allies in Spring 1918 as the Central Powers began to focus their efforts more fully on the Western Front.
Boxing on the Sabbath
Frank, as a Salvationist, would have been shocked that a boxing contest had been organized on a Sunday. Even today, Sabbath Observance remains one of the key tenets of the Salvation Army. That said, it would not have been only Salvationists who would have expected greater restraint onboard. Relaxation of things like shop opening and theatre performances on Sundays have only happened in Britain since the 1970s and even then inconsistently. In April 2006, the first Sunday arrival of a ferry on Harris, one of the Western Isles of Scotland, caused outcry. As reported, ‘Although the days are long gone when Free Presbyterian ministers tied up children’s swings on Sundays, the Sabbath is still strictly observed in many parts of the Isles.’¹
Despite this example, Sabbath Observance had been weakening since its zenith in the 1700s. In December 1917, The Manchester Guardian newspaper had an interesting insight into attitudes a hundred years before:
References & further reading
¹ ‘Fury at ferry crossing on Sabbath‘ by Gerard Seenan, The Guardian, April 10th, 2006
* ‘Manchester 100 Years Ago’, Dec 31st 1917, Manchester Guardian, copyright 2017 Newspapers.com
‘The First World War: An Illustrated History’ by AJP Taylor (Penguin Books)
Treaty of Brest-Litovsk in Wikipedia
Operation Faustschlag in Wikipedia