100 years ago

Ju­bi­la­tion filled Tim­mins’ streets fol­low­ing news the First World War was over.

The Daily Press (Timmins) - - FRONT PAGE - Karen Bach­mann Karen Bach­mann is the di­rec­tor/ cu­ra­tor of the Tim­mins Mu­seum and a writer of lo­cal his­tory.

“The ar­mistice was signed at five o’clock this morn­ing, and hos­til­i­ties are to cease on all fronts at 11 a.m. to-day.”

Prime Min­is­ter David Lloyd Ge­orge in a com­mu­nique to the Bri­tish pub­lic, No­vem­ber 11th, 1918.

“If one were to stand on a street cor­ner at 9 a.m. and watch the spir­its of the Bri­tish dead march by four abreast, the col­umn would be 97 miles long and would take 20 hours, or un­til five the next morn­ing, to pass. The French dead would take an ad­di­tional 51 hours and the Ger­mans an­other 59 hours. Con­sid­er­ing all the dead on the west­ern front, this pa­rade would last from 9 a.m. Mon­day to 4 a.m. Sat­ur­day and stretch 386 miles, roughly the dis­tance from Paris half­way through Switzer­land or from New York to Cleve­land.”

Joseph E. Per­sico, “Eleventh Month, Eleventh Day, Eleventh Hour: Ar­mistice Day 1918”.

to­mor­row marks the 100th an­niver­sary of the ar­mistice that ended all fight­ing in the First World War.

the Nov. 11th ar­mistice (known of­fi­cially as the ar­mistice of Com­piègne) ended hos­til­i­ties be­tween the al­lies and Ger­many; the war had al­ready come to a close for bul­garia (Sept. 30th 1918, ar­mistice of thes­sa­lonica), the ot­toman empire (ar­mistice of mu­dros signed on oct. 31st, 1918) and the aus­tro-hun­gar­ian empire (ar­mistice of villa Giusti, Nov. 3rd, 1918).

Since the be­gin­ning of the war in 1914, 65 mil­lion sol­diers had been mo­bi­lized for both the al­lied and Cen­tral Pow­ers armies. by 1918, 8.5 mil­lion sol­diers had been killed; 21 mil­lion in­jured; 7.75 mil­lion taken pris­oner or listed as miss­ing in ac­tion, for a to­tal of 37.25 mil­lion ca­su­al­ties, or 57.5% of the mo­bi­lized forces. Civil­ians were not spared ei­ther, as an es­ti­mated 13 mil­lion died of star­va­tion, ex­po­sure, dis­ease (in­clud­ing in­fluenza), mil­i­tary en­coun­ters and mas­sacres.

it is dif­fi­cult for us to un­der­stand to­day just how com­pletely de­struc­tive the war had been; ci­ties were de­stroyed; vil­lages were oblit­er­ated; the econ­omy was in a sham­bles; the en­vi­ron­ment dam­aged. the world was changed; rus­sia un­der­went a trans­for­ma­tional rev­o­lu­tion, Ger­many be­came a repub­lic, the aus­tro-hun­gar­ian empire was dis­man­tled. the mid­dle east was re­struc­tured, as well as most of eu­rope, which, can be ar­gued, paved the way for the Sec­ond World War and other is­sues we are still deal­ing with to­day.

on a very per­sonal level, peo­ple knew the war af­fected con­scious­ness. all of that dra­matic change and the hor­ror of the war de­stroyed the se­cure, or­dered life of ed­war­dian eng­land, caus­ing peo­ple to feel that life would never be sta­ble again.

but all of that was yet to come – with the an­nounce­ment on Nov. 11th, 1918, peo­ple were just re­lieved to know that the war had fi­nally come to an end.

at the front, in­for­ma­tion about the im­mi­nent cease­fire was known; forces how­ever con­tin­ued to fight right up un­til the fi­nal hour. at 11am, both sides stopped shoot­ing and some spon­ta­neous frat­er­niz­ing hap­pened be­tween the two sides, but re­ac­tions were silent (and who could blame them af­ter four years of ter­ror).

a bri­tish cor­po­ral re­ported that “the Ger­mans came from the trenches, bowed to us and then went away. that was it. there was noth­ing with which we could cel­e­brate ex­cept cook­ies.”

on the home front, peo­ple were ju­bi­lant. a false re­port of an ar­mistice was sent out by the united Press on Nov. 7th; the news spread like crazy – it even reached the Por­cu­pine where, ac­cord­ing to the Por­cu­pine ad­vance, “an en­thu­si­as­tic im­promptu cel­e­bra­tion took place here on thurs­day night (Nov. 8th), re­ports com­ing in dur­ing the day that an ar­mistice had been signed with the huns. the fire bell and whis­tles went to it, the fire team came out, au­tos, rigs and men, women and chil­dren pa­raded the streets. the ital­ian band led the mu­sic and ev­ery­one made a joy­ful noise. all the flags in town were sold-out. all the peo­ple seemed to go wild with en­thu­si­asm at the com­ing of vic­tory af­ter four years of stress. af­ter parad­ing, some of the crowd went to the empire the­atre where Sgt. Ge­orge Smith, who served over­seas with the high­landers, took charge of the meet­ing. Short speeches were given by Coun. Charles Pierce, Pte. Gilbert and oth­ers. it was a big night al­right!”

once “of­fi­cial word” was re­ceived on Nov. 11th, the town came out again for more hoot­ing and hol­ler­ing. the cable was re­ceived at 6am, and the party started a few mo­ments af­ter that, con­tin­u­ing into the wee hours of the next day. bells, whis­tles and horns joined to­gether to cre­ate lots of noise; flags were brought back out and kid­dies stole their moms’ pots and pans to make even more of a racket.

mar­shall ec­cle­stone’s store win­dow fea­tured a wooden ef­figy of the Kaiser (made by the car­pen­try staff from the hollinger mine); crowds started to gather down­town in an­tic­i­pa­tion of more cel­e­brat­ing. the ital­ian band made an­other show­ing and pro­vided pa­tri­otic mu­sic for the bal­ance of the af­ter­noon.

in the evening, a big pa­rade was formed; un­der­taker eas­ton took the ef­figy of the Kaiser in his hearse, pulled by his horse black maria, and headed for the ath­letic grounds (for a lit­tle of the macabre, the band played the fu­neral march). Some of the re­cently re­turned sol­diers took charge of the event when they reached the field; two of the men shot the “Kaiser” and bashed him over the head. the ef­figy was then set on fire and the burn­ing limbs were torn free and used as torches for the pa­rade, which went on for hours (sounds a bit like a me­dieval riot). the many, many days, months and years of worry, stress and de­spair were fi­nally over.

Cana­di­ans, along with the rest of the bri­tish Com­mon­wealth first ob­served “ar­mistice day” in 1919. Start­ing in 1921,

ar­mistice day was held on the mon­day of the week in which Nov. 11 fell; this tra­di­tion lasted un­til 1931 when alan Neill, mem­ber of Par­lia­ment for Co­mox–al­berni, in­tro­duced a bill to ob­serve re­mem­brance day only on Nov. 11.

PhoTo suP­PlieD by Tim­mins mu­seum

“Vic­tory cel­e­bra­tions, No­vem­ber 11th, 1918 in Tim­mins”; the town had gone all out three days be­fore with an im­promptu pa­rade, speeches and lots of noise — but they cel­e­brated the end again on the 11th.

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