Definitely not over by Christmas

snow at the front
Snow at the Front. Soldiers leaving Reserve Trench (National Library of Scotland). Free Access – Rights Reserved.

One of the most enduring myths of WWI centres on the conviction, widely attributed to the early months of the war, that conflict would all  ‘be over by Christmas’ and peace would have resumed. Given the range of intersections between language and history at this time, it is perhaps unsurprising that the Words in War-Time archive can also offer interesting evidence in this respect. The range of forms which appear through the autumn of 1914 present, however, an early  corrective for the popular narrative of a short war. Instead, as the archive confirms, WWI generated a  range of combinatory forms and constructions in which expectations that a war winter would succeed a summer and autumn of conflict were, in reality, unambiguous.

Even in September 1914, the certainty of a war which would continue beyond Christmas seemed clear. ‘Every one is preparing for a war winter‘, readers of the Daily Express were informed on September 11th, for example. Those who assumed otherwise — including those at the Front — were distinctly rash, as an article in the Scotsman also warned: Continue reading