Peace at last, but life would never be the same again

The Armistice was signed in a rail­way car­riage at Com­piegne, in north­ern France, on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918. Andy Smart looks at how peace came to Not­ting­ham


THE news broke in a spe­cial edi­tion of the Not­ting­ham Evening Post on Mon­day Novem­ber 11 1918.

“Last Shot Fired At 11am To­day”, shouted the head­line. Peace at last after four long years of mis­ery and heart­break.

“Within half an hour,” re­ported the Post, “the greater part of the city was ablaze with gaily-coloured bunting.

“The most vig­or­ous demon­stra­tors were the chil­dren who rushed into the streets, and at noon, when the schools closed, their lusty shouts vied with the hoarse roar of the fac­tory hoot­ers in herald­ing the good tid­ings.”

Church bells rang, fac­to­ries and of­fices closed down. Al­most in dis­be­lief a war-weary and grate­ful na­tion be­gan to cel­e­brate. But in Not­ting­ham, the cel­e­bra­tions were some­what muted by a Cor­po­ra­tion de­ci­sion to re­strict pub open­ing hours.

Ap­par­ently, the au­thor­ity re­mem­bered “the or­gies” which en­sued after the re­lief of Mafek­ing 20 years ear­lier and were de­ter­mined to show a greater de­gree of re­spect as so many fam­i­lies were mourn­ing sons and fa­thers, broth­ers and sis­ters, lost in the con­flict.

And pub­li­cans sup­ported the move, keep­ing their doors firmly closed… al­though the fact that many had run out of beer might have con­trib­uted to the de­ci­sion.

But per­mis­sion was given by the mayor, John Tur­ney, to turn the lights back on and lift the blinds that night to wel­come peace.

The Mar­ket Place was thronged with thou­sands of rev­ellers, and when a mo­tor­cade of wounded Bri­tish sol­diers came into view, they were mobbed by grate­ful mem­bers of the pub­lic want­ing to shake the hand of a hero.

In Huck­nall, the cel­e­bra­tions were led by Amer­i­can ser­vice­men based at the nearby aero­drome. They hauled an air­craft through the streets, topped by the stars and stripes flag.

Church thanks­giv­ing ser­vices were hur­riedly ar­ranged and well-at­tended, and the Post, with un­der­stand­able op­ti­mism, wrote: “It was an oc­ca­sion for un­feigned joy in the sure knowl­edge that Ger­many has been laid in the dust and the great­est men­ace that has ever faced our coun­try has been laid to rest, for­ever.”

An an­nounce­ment quickly fol­lowed that, for the first time in four years, there would be a real Christ­mas.

Food re­stric­tions were lifted and ra­tions of loose fat, suet, tongue, kid­ney and ox skirt were dou­bled.

Butch­ers were given the go-ahead to sell turkeys, geese, ducks, chick­ens, fowl and game, with­out the need for food vouch­ers.

The band of Chilwell mu­ni­tions fac­tory was in­vited to Lon­don, to play out­side Num­ber 10 Down­ing Street, where it re­ceived the thanks of prime min­is­ter David Lloyd Ge­orge. And, much to the de­light of many, re­stric­tions on horse rac­ing were lifted.

But it was not that easy to shake off the sad­ness the war had in­flicted on fam­i­lies through­out the city, the county and the coun­try.

Be­neath the ban­ner head­lines pro­claim­ing vic­tory, snip­pets of news could still cast a long, dark shadow.

In South Road, West Bridg­ford, the fam­ily of Lieu­tenant Syd­ney Crow­den, RAF, were mourn­ing the death of their youngest son; in Thorn­cliffe Road, Mr and Mrs A H Cullen waited anx­iously for news of el­dest son Wil­liam, of the Seaforth High­landers. They had been

told he was ly­ing in a French hospi­tal with se­ri­ous wounds.

And just as the peo­ple of Not­ting­hamshire were wel­com­ing the great­est day in liv­ing his­tory, they were hav­ing to face an even greater peril.

In that first week of peace, med­i­cal of­fi­cer Philip Boobyer re­vealed the toll be­ing taken by the Span­ish Flu epi­demic.

In Not­ting­ham, he said, the dis­ease was “in­creas­ing at a tremen­dous pace”.

In that first week of peace, 230 peo­ple had died from flu and pneu­mo­nia; in Bul­well, the worst-hit dis­trict, there had been 70 as­so­ci­ated deaths; in Huck­nall, the town had gone from an an­nual death to­tal of 154 to 77 in a sin­gle week.

Dr Boobyer pointed the fin­ger of blame di­rectly at the pub­lic for not tak­ing proper pre­cau­tions. Over­crowd­ing and poor ven­ti­la­tion were the prime causes of the spread of the dis­ease, and he sin­gled out tram­cars and cin­e­mas as the worst places to be.

There would be other chal­lenges ahead, not least to pro­vide the promised “homes for he­roes”. Not­ting­ham’s land­scape would change with new es­tates, wider roads, hun­dreds of newly built houses.

In so many ways, life after the First World War would never be the same again.

The old or­der had been swept away. Kings and em­per­ors had lost their thrones, and some even their lives.

The map of Europe had been re­drawn, new borders laid down, old en­e­mies van­quished, 17 mil­lion peo­ple killed, in a bloody con­flict the like of which had never been wit­nessed be­fore.

But at least, the pop­u­la­tion were mis­guid­edly as­sured, we would never have to go through that again.


Thou­sands flocked to Mar­ket Place on Armistice Day when vet­er­ans held a vic­tory pa­rade. Left, two sol­diers mark the end of fight­ing in time-hon­oured fash­ion out­side Lyons Cafe.

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