'Anxious to stay alive': Fear and excitement in final days of WWI
Published Friday, November 9, 2018 2:28PM EST
The final days of the First World War for Clarence Schwab were filled with excitement and caution.
“They were moving farther and faster than they had at any time during the war,” said his grandson, Col. Alexander Schwab, in an interview with CTV London Bureau Chief Paul Workman.
“They sensed that there was a chance that they might be able to end the war before Christmas.”
Schwab, who carries on his grandfather’s legacy as a NATO soldier based in Europe, has preserved a collection of photographs, diaries and notes kept by the older Schwab. Clarence served three years in France and chased the Germans through Belgium during the war, which ended 100 years ago Sunday. He was likely in the woods near a small town north of Valenciennes, France when he got word of the armistice from battalion headquarters on Nov. 11, 1918, his grandson said.
The diary entries suggest the final days were filled with guarded enthusiasm in that the Allies were “advancing and taking so many German prisoners.”
But any sense of “excitement” was matched with a considerable amount of caution.
“Many of them had been through three years of war,” said Schwab. “They were anxious to stay alive, but still to do their soldiering job.”
For Col. Schwab, sharing his grandfather’s stories on the armistice centenary has been “incredibly emotional,” but he has an immense amount of pride as a soldier himself.
“Very professionally rewarding as well to be able to walk the ground and see the kinds of things that he would have gone through,” he said. “Having studied and researched and knowing what the conditions were, it is a remarkable accomplishment to have come through that much war relatively unscathed.”