Two Armistice Day cel­e­bra­tions

Bush Telegraph - - TRADES & SERVICES - By DAVE MUR­DOCH Ad­di­tional re­port­ing Rob McDon­ald.

Armistice cel­e­bra­tions around New Zealand in 1918 were mostly muted be­cause of the out­break of in­fluenza which soon killed many New Zealan­ders, Tararua res­i­dents in­cluded.

A pic­ture sur­vives in the Dan­nevirke Gallery of His­tory of Mata­mau School’s cel­e­bra­tion.

Dan­nevirke had two cel­e­bra­tions, one three days be­fore the for­mal Armistice’s sign­ing and on the day.

His­to­rian Rob McDon­ald’s book Dan­nevirke — The Early Years re­ports that cel­e­bra­tions be­gan in Dan­nevirke on Novem­ber 8, 1918 af­ter the news came through at 9.45am that Ger­many had signed the Armistice. Rob re­ports:

“. . . A tremen­dous din broke forth in the town. Fac­tory whis­tles, the fire bell and church bells min­gled in a lengthy cho­rus. It was down tools as busi­nesses and schools closed and ev­ery­one rushed to High Street. The sur­round­ing coun­try dis­tricts were no­ti­fied and a short time later there were streams of mo­tor­cars laden with cel­e­brants rush­ing to join the ac­tiv­i­ties in High Street.

The pro­ces­sion, which had been planned in ad­vance, formed up at 11am and moved off to the do­main. It was windy and rain­ing but no one cared.

“When the do­main was reached a ru­mour spread that there was some doubt about whether the Armistice had ac­tu­ally been signed but it was de­cided to con­tinue the cel­e­bra­tions any­way and hope that con­fir­ma­tion would ar­rive be­fore they had con­cluded.

The band played, the crowd sang, speeches were given, a haka was per­formed, cheer­ing was fre­quently in­dulged in and the cel­e­bra­tion ended with the singing of the Na­tional An­them.”

“Once again Dan­nevirke was out in front. It had been the first to cel­e­brate the end of the war — three days early.”

The for­mal cel­e­bra­tion, The Do­main Demon­stra­tion, was on the day of the sign­ing, Novem­ber 11 at 11am.

The Do­main Demon­stra­tion be­gan with a pro­ces­sion of the Mayor A E Ran­som, coun­cil­lors, the brass band, vet­er­ans, re­turned sol­diers in full uni­form, Ma¯ ori in full cos­tume, school stu­dents, the Fire Bri­gade, pipe band, Boy Scouts, dec­o­rated lor­ries, a tin can band, Hunts­men and Red In­di­ans.

It trav­elled from the Oddfel­lows Hall to the Do­main where the Demon­stra­tion be­gan.

Af­ter the open­ing hymn All Peo­ple That On Earth Do Dwell, Mayor Ran­som be­gan the first of a num­ber of speeches from dig­ni­taries, in­clud­ing County Coun­cil Chair­man FG Cow­per, and Mr Wi Dun­can, punc­tu­ated by pa­tri­otic mu­si­cal items (Rule Britannia, La Marsel­laise, The Sol­diers of the King, Sons of the Sea), a haka and con­clud­ing with the Bri­tish Na­tional An­them.

There fol­lowed a sports day in­volv­ing events like the tug of war, three-legged and wheel bar­row races, haka, a slow mo­tor car race, High­land danc­ing, races for dif­fer­ent age groups a lolly scram­ble and an ap­ple com­pe­ti­tion.

Rob McDon­ald re­ports: “The Armistice Demon­stra­tion Com­mit­tee thought pos­i­tively and used the first ex­pe­ri­ence as a trial run. This fi­nal cel­e­bra­tion was go­ing to be per­fect.

“As it turned out when the Armistice was fi­nally signed and the whis­tles blew, the re­sponse of the pub­lic was sub­dued.

“Much of the en­ergy had been spent on the pre­vi­ous false alarm but a more im­por­tant rea­son for the lack of en­thu­si­asm was the sud­den re­al­i­sa­tion of the se­ri­ous­ness of the in­fluenza epi­demic that was now grip­ping Dan­nevirke.

“Just when the joy of vic­tory should have been savoured this new and deadly en­emy was be­sieg­ing the town.”

The Armistice Cel­e­bra­tions led by Piper Cur­rie at Mata­mau School 1918.

Armistice Day cel­e­bra­tions in Queen Street, Auck­land in 1918.

Front page of the Dan­nevirke sou­venir pro­gramme for the Of­fi­cial Armistice Cel­e­bra­tions Novem­ber 11, 1918.

In­side, the pro­gramme had the or­der of pro­ces­sion and sports pro­gramme with the war’s lead­ers.

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