Sunderland Echo - - Front page -

The war is over! And what a scene of raw emo­tion and bed­lam it caused when the news reached Sun­der­land in Novem­ber 1918. The poor news­boys, who were out sell­ing pa­pers con­tain­ing the an­nounce­ment, were knocked off their feet in the rush for in­for­ma­tion from an ec­static pub­lic. Else­where, the Mayor was cheered loudly as he spoke on the Town Hall steps. Amid it all, peo­ple were in tears as they re­flected on more than four years of hell. Today, with the help of his­to­rian Trevor Thorne, we take a look back at the day the Ar­mistice was an­nounced on Wear­side.

It was Novem­ber 11, 1918. In France, war was end­ing and it wasn’t long be­fore the news car­ried home. It was a cold morn­ing in Sun­der­land. A typ­i­cal Wear­side win­ter day but word got out that this was a bit of a spe­cial day. One group of peo­ple gath­ered in Bridge Street and West Wear Street to hear the news. There it was .... dis­played on a no­tice in the Sun­der­land Echo of­fice win­dow. Peo­ple cheered. News­boys were knocked down and in­jured as the crowd tried to buy a copy of a spe­cial edi­tion of the pa­per. The head­line read: “Truce to last 36 days. Evac­u­a­tion of Al­sace-Lor­raine and Rhineland” but peo­ple knew this was more than a 36-day truce. It was the end. Flags were hoisted onto build­ings. Ship­yard buzzers sounded and men left their work to join in. Crowds gath­ered many wear­ing red, white and blue. Fire­works were set-off in Crowtree Road and a Rag­time Band played mu­sic in the streets. Schoolchil­dren got the rest of the day off as an ex­tra hol­i­day. At 3.30pm, the po­lice band ar­rived at the Town Hall and played the French and Bri­tish na­tional an­thems. The crowds milled around well into the evening. Sun­der­land was in such a mood of ju­bi­la­tion that the Mayor de­clared Novem­ber 12

to be a pub­lic hol­i­day. But by the 14th, the ship­yard work­ers had still not re­turned to work and all the yards re­mained idle be­cause the men were still cel­e­brat­ing. Else­where, more som­bre events were held in­clud­ing a memo­rial ser­vice at the Vic­to­ria Hall on Novem­ber 13, when the ad­dress was given by the Bishop of Durham. It had been a costly war for Sun­der­land. More than 25,000 Sun­der­land men had gone into bat­tle out of a pop­u­la­tion of 151,000. By the end of it all, one third were killed or wounded. Sun­der­land never for­got those who paid the ul­ti­mate price or the free­dom which had fol­lowed for those who sur­vived. By the sum­mer of 1919, a Na­tional Peace Day pa­rade went through the streets past the Town Hall. In April 1919, the town was of­fered a tank for pub­lic dis­play. But the Coun­cil would only agree to ac­cept a spe­cific tank, which had been manned by Sun­der­land men who had played a sig­nif­i­cant part in one par­tic­u­lar of­fen­sive to­wards the end of the war. In Oc­to­ber 1919, some peo­ple did not take kindly to a dis­play of three cap­tured Ger­man guns. An armed guard had to be placed over them. The Coun­cil then re­fused to pay the cost of the guards so the guns were sent to the Cor­po­ra­tion’s store yard.

Trevor Thorne’s book Sun­der­land and the First World War – has been reprinted and is avail­able at £9.99. It is in ex­tended form with im­proved images and in­cludes ex­tra in­for­ma­tion which has come to light since its first print­ing in 2013. You can buy it at Water­stones, Clays Gar­den Cen­tre, Haswells Farm shop and from the An­ti­quar­ian So­ci­ety in Douro Ter­race.

“Schoolchil­dren got the rest of the day off as a hol­i­day” TREVOR THORNE “Crowds gath­ered, many wear­ing red, white and blue” TREVOR THORNE

A pho­to­graph show­ing the meal which awaited re­turn­ing sol­diers.

The Sun­der­land Echo head­line which de­tailed the end to the First World War

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