The Armistice that ended World War I came into effect at 11 a.m. Paris time on 11 November 1918 (“the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month”).
A great many books were published during and after the end of World War I focused on troop movements and various battles. Vera Brittain’s memoir, Testament of Youth, published in 1933, was notable because it told the story of the shattering impact of the war on women and the lives of the British middle class.
The war took a terrible toll among the British soldiers of Vera’s generation. Men of all classes suffered terribly, but men of university age died in disproportionate numbers because, as young army lieutenants, it was their responsibility to physically lead the hopeless attacks against enemy trenches while more senior and presumably less-expendable officers monitored events from the rear. The churches in various colleges at Oxford contain memorials with long, long lists of the names of students killed during the war.
Vera and Roland Leighton, a brilliant student and poet, met before the war and later fell in love. They became engaged four months before Roland was killed at the front in France.
Vera studied English Literature at Somerville College, Oxford, but withdrew in the summer of 1915 to work as a Voluntary Aid Detachment (V.A.D.) nurse for much of the war. Her work included nursing wounded and maimed soldiers in the military hospitals of France.
Roundel, by Vera Brittain
“Died of Wounds”
Because you died, I shall not rest again,
But wander ever through the lone world wide,
Seeking the shadow of a dream grown vain
Because you died.
I shall spend brief and idle hours beside
The many lesser loves that still remain,
But find in none my triumph and my pride;
And Disillusion’s slow corroding stain
Will creep upon each quest but newly tried,
For every striving now shall nothing gain
Because you died.